(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Signs, omens and superstitions"

KTO 



nm 



HftJIra 



■DHH 



ftsara 



MMBBW 



tV12l 



KM 



Rii&eiiii 



KKl 






B^ffi&gyi 



UfXWl 



ffiffiBBS 



I 



^9 



■Hta 



KH 



RHKflflfl 



1 



■ 

wHiinnniMirim 



mi 






HHill 

wWililKiril 









!)if i 









! 



1 



I 



H 



1 mm 
mk mm 1 






hi 



KHi 



\a 



WHiffi 



MM 



;tt¥tl 






i 



hH 



MfUHfl 



RUG 

rilU 



Sill 



MM 



8BH 



BH9 m 



m 



m 






m 



m 



wwassm 



V * 



5 \v 



A* 












V" 




















' ^ 




/v 






.#\ 



*** % 






W 






-S. -r, 










p *4 



a i -a * 
^ V 

flV -- * > >-, 















SIGNS, OMENS 

AND 
SUPERSTITIONS 



SIGNS, OMENS 

AND 

SUPERSTITIONS 



BY 

ASTRA CIELO 

Author of "Fortunes and Dreams" 



'Signs, omens and predictions, 
Are not all fictions, 
And many facts does history cite 
To prove that I am right" 

—The Mascot. 



NEW YORK 
GEORGE SULLY & COMPANY 



rt1* 



Copyright, 191 8, by 
GEORGE SULLY & COMPANY 



All rights reserved 



PRINTED IN U. S. A. 

MAV 31 1918 

©GI.449753S 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER 



PAGE 



I. Popular Superstitions . 
II. Wedding-Superstitions . 

Lucky Periods for Marriages 
Bridal Cake — Bridesmaids . 
Shoes and Weddings 

III. Rings 

Engagement and Wedding Rings 

IV. Lucky and Unlucky Days and Seasons 

New Year's Superstitions 

April Fool's Day . 

Ascension Day 

Easter Superstitions 

St. John's Eve . 

Candlemas Day . 

St. Valentine's Day 

Hallowe'en Customs 

Harvest Superstitions 

Christmas .... 
V. Signs of Good or Bad Luck 

The Sign of the Cross 

Knocking on Wood . 
VI. Lucky and Unlucky Omens 

Christening Customs 

Beliefs Concerning Children 

Beliefs Concerning Eggs 

Charms and Amulets 

Mascots 

"* Horseshoe Lore . 
- Pin Superstitions 



I 

7 
ii 

12 
14 
17 

20 

23 
29 

3i 
32 
33 
35 
36 
36 
38 

39 
40 

43 
46 
48 
50 
5i 
52 
54 
59 
64 
65 
67 



VI 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER 



PAGE 



VII. 



VIII. 



IX. 



X. 



The Influences of Mythical Beings 

Witches ...... 

Signs Connected with the Body 

Sneezing . 

Spitting . 

Moles, Teeth, Warts, etc 

Yawning .... 

Tingling and Itching 

Stumbling and Falling 

Cutting Nails and Hair 

Personal Appearance 

Clothes Superstitions 

On Arising 

Squinting, Crippled, and Hunchback 
Persons . 

Death and Corpses 

The Evil Eye . 
Household Beliefs . 

Looking-glass Omens 
^ Spilling of Salt . 

Knife Superstitions 

Candle Superstitions 

Concerning Ladders 
Divination 

The Mystery of Numbers 

Lottery Numbers and Usages 

Predictions of Wealth 

Divination by Letters 

Divination by Books . 

Precious Stones . 

Color Superstitions . 



CONTENTS 



vn 



CHAPTER 



PAGE 



XIII. 



XIV. 



XL Plant Superstitions .... 

XII. Bird (and Insect) Superstitions 
Insect Omens .... 

Bees ...... 

Animal Portents . . : . 
■ Howling of Dogs > . 
> Black Cats .... 

Meteorological Beliefs . 

Weather Signs and Portents 
Comets and Meteors . 
XV. Vocational Superstitions 

Superstitions of Kings . 
Card-players' Superstitions 
Actors' Superstitions . 
Theatre Superstitions 
Commercial Travellers' Superstitions 
Dressmakers' and Seamstresses' Su- 



perstitions 

' Sailors' Superstitions 
•Fishermen's Superstitions . 
Turfmen's Superstitions . 
Baseball Superstitions 
Waiters' Superstitions . 
XVI. (Miscellaneous) Portents of Evil 
Breaking Friendship . 
Drinking Toasts .... 
Pious Ejaculations . 
XVII. Superstitions of the Orthodox Jew 



CHAPTER I 
POPULAR SUPERSTITIONS 

It is an interesting question as to how the many 
superstitious beliefs and practices had their begin- 
ning. The origin of most of them is no doubt 
to be found in man's efforts to explain the phe- 
nomena of nature, and in an attempt to propitiate 
an angry deity and to invite a better fortune. 
From these sources come many of the absurd 
notions still in vogue among primitive people, 
which have been handed down in modified form 
to us. 

Man has ever found it difficult to understand 
the mysteries surrounding him on all sides, and 
groping in the dark he has tried by prayer, incan- 
tation or peculiar practices to force nature to do 
his bidding. 

Superstition, therefore, arises primarily from 
ignorance. Early man believed that every phe- 
nomenon of nature was the work of a spirit or 
devil. His intelligence could not suggest any 
other explanation. To this belief was added fear. 
The thunder, the lightning, the earthquake, dark- 
ness — all filled him with fearful dread. To him 

I 



2 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

they were the workings of spiteful powers to be 
propitiated. Where ignorance and fear are sur- 
rounded by danger they will always grope for a 
way of escape. Thus superstition is born. A be- 
lief in the existence of spirits antagonistic to man 
gave rise to most of the old superstitions. 

There is no nation, however ignorant or ad- 
vanced, which does not recognize customs, rites, 
usages and beliefs which have their origin in 
superstition. The Bible speaks of such practices 
as had found their way from pagan sources into 
the monotheistic beliefs of the Israelites, calls them 
"abominations," and warns the Jews against them. 
The penalty of death was attached to sorcery, yet 
many of the superstitious practices continued to be 
observed, as is proved by the invocation by Saul 
of Samuel's spirit. All the prophets spoke strenu- 
ously against the existing immoral and supersti- 
tious rites, and Judaism was probably the first reli- 
gion that attempted to free itself from their 
shackles. In Egypt, Greece and Rome, supersti- 
tion gave birth to mythology with its pagan rites 
and ceremonies. During the Dark and Middle Ages 
when people were for the most part illiterate, 
superstition flourished with unprecedented vigor. 
Every religious sect gave rise to new beliefs. The 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 3 

Crusades had the effect of bringing to Europe 
many oriental practices and ideas that in the 
course of time became grafted on the religious 
habits of the people, and not a few of them have 
been handed down to our own times. 

It is, in fact, a difficult matter at times to draw 
the line between superstition and religion, for what 
appears as a sacred rite to one creed may appear 
as rank folly to the adherent of another. The 
Fiji Islander, for example, believes that thunder 
is a sign of God's anger, and he falls flat on his 
face and mutters an invocation to appease the 
deity. To an enlightened European this becomes 
a superstition, yet this same European may wear 
an amulet or charm to ward off sickness or bad 
luck, and the Fiji Islander might be moved to 
laughter at the idea. 

In fact, certain superstitions had their origin 
in one sect trying to oppose the tenets of another 
sect. Again many superstitions were created by a 
literal or often a false interpretation of the Bible. 
For instance, among the Jews it was considered 
lucky to begin a journey on Tuesday, because in 
describing the third day of Creation, it is said: 
"God saw that it was good." On the other hand, 
it was thought unlucky to commence anything on 



4 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

Monday, when God omitted to say it was good. 

Similarly Christians have a superstition that 
Friday is a bad day to begin an important work, 
because Christ was crucified on that day. The 
fear of sitting down with thirteen at table had its 
origin in the Last Supper and its sad ending. 

Many a superstition had its beginning in a 
command that was laid down to teach a lesson or 
avoid trouble. For instance, it is considered bad 
to step over a child. This may have had its be- 
ginning when a careful father feared that in step- 
ping over a child one might accidentally step on it 
and cripple it. To drive the lesson home more ef- 
fectively, it was stated that stepping over a child 
would stunt its growth, and in that form it is still 
held in respect by many at the present time. So 
also the belief that it is unlucky to sing before 
breakfast may have been taught by an indolent 
father who hated to have his morning slumbers 
disturbed by his daughter's singing, and so fright- 
ened her off by an admonition appealing to her 
fear. Every superstition can probably be traced 
to a similar cause. 

There are few persons, no matter how rational 
or level-headed, who are not given to superstition 
in some form. With some there is a deep-seated 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 5 

belief that evil will result from an infraction of 
a rule. With others an amused idea that if a 
ceremony does no good it can do no harm, and so 
to be on the safe side they carry out some mum- 
mery. The lady who will not go to a card party, 
unless she wears some particular amulet or jewel, 
the man who will not speculate or play cards with- 
out first touching his lucky coin or pocket-piece, 
the fisherman who spits on his bait for good luck, 
are all descendants of the primitive savage who 
tried by some secret method to force nature to be 
good to him. 

One reason why superstition has not yet died 
out among intelligent people is because it is con- 
tagious. In colonial days in Salem even the 
learned professors and lawyers believed in witch- 
craft. It was in the very air. Children brought up 
in an atmosphere of credulity rarely rise above it. 
It is the hardest thing to shake off superstitious 
prejudices. They are sucked, as it were, with our 
mother's milk, and become so interwoven with 
our thoughts that a very strong mind is required 
to shake them off. They become a sort of religion, 
semisacred in their appeal. No wonder that the 
lower classes cannot abandon them and that even 
men of intellect cling to them. 



6 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

It is the object of this book to review the sub- 
ject of superstition without prejudice or condem- 
nation, but to present the data and explain their 
origin wherever possible, leaving it to the reader 
to reject such beliefs as seem absurd and irrecon- 
cilable with modern culture. 



CHAPTER II 
WEDDING SUPERSTITIONS 

In some countries it is customary to throw 
money over the heads of the bride and groom as 
they come out of church, — it insures fortune. 

In Scandinavian countries a speech is usually 
made at the wedding feast or a song is sung, 
which winds up in an unexpected crash. This 
sets everybody laughing and is a signal for general 
congratulations and good wishes. 

It was formerly customary in Germany to carry 
old dishes outside of the door and break them in 
the street. If a single piece escaped demolition, 
it was considered a bad sign. 

Sprinkling the bride with wheat is a lucky sign. 
It takes the place of rice in some sections. Both 
are considered emblems of fruitfulness. 

Among the Slavs a can of beer is poured over 
the horse belonging to the bridegroom. 

Flinging the stocking was an old custom on the 
bridal eve. The young men took the bride's stock- 
ings and the girls those of the groom, and threw 
them over their heads. If they fell upon the bride 

7 



8 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

or groom to whom they belonged, the thrower was 
sure to be married soon. 

In Yorkshire after the couple have gone away, 
the cook pours a kettle full of hot water on the 
stone before the front door in order that another 
wedding will soon occur from the same house. 

It is considered a sign of good luck if the bride 
does not walk into the groom's house, but is lifted 
over the sill by her nearest relatives. 

It is lucky for the bridesmaids to throw away 
a pin on the wedding day, and unlucky to be stuck 
with one. 

In Brittany a girl who can secure the pins used 
to fasten the bride's dress, is sure of an early 
marriage. 

It is considered unlucky for a pair to be married 
in church if there is an open grave in the church- 
yard. 

It is unlucky to. be married in green. 

The wearing of orange blossoms at a wedding 
ensures good luck. 

In the Middle Ages it was considered a bad 
omen if the couple met a cat, dog, lizard, serpent 
or hare; but to meet a wolf, spider or toad was 
a good sign. 

It is unlucky for a bride to look into a mirror 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS g 

after she is completely dressed. Some article must 
be put on after she is through admiring herself. 

The sneezing of a cat on the eve of a wedding 
is a lucky omen. 

A man going to be married, who meets a male 
acquaintance, rubs his elbow to ensure good luck. 

In China, if a bethrothal is being arranged, it 
is postponed in case anything unlucky, such as 
the breaking of a vase or bowl or the loss of any- 
thing, occurs. 

Among the Highlanders great care is taken 
that no dog runs between the couple on their way 
to be married. 

It was formerly considered unlucky if the bride 
did not weep at her wedding. It portended tears 
later on. 

A storm with thunder and lightning is a bad 
omen during a wedding ceremony. 

To marry a man whose name begins with the 
same letter as one's own is sometimes considered 
unlucky. 

If a younger daughter chances to get married 
before her older sisters, the older girls should 
dance at her wedding barefoot. 

A clot of soot coming down a chimney at a 
wedding feast is a bad omen. 



io SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

If the bride accidentally breaks a dish at the 
wedding feast it is a bad sign. 

A bird dying in his cage on the day after a 
wedding is a bad sign. A bird sitting on the 
window sill chirping is a good omen. 

To meet a funeral either in going or coming 
from a wedding is always a sign of ill fortune. If 
the funeral is that of a male, it means an early 
death for the groom; if of a woman, the bride 
will soon die. 

It is unlucky for a woman to read the marriage 
service entirely through. She will never get a 
husband. 

Bees should be informed that a wedding is in 
progress and their hives decorated. It brings 
good luck. 

If at the wedding dinner an unmarried person 
sits between the bride and groom it means that 
there will soon be another wedding. 

Marriages on the last day of the year are con- 
sidered lucky. 

Easter engagements are said to foretell money, 
those at Ascension, health, those at Trinity, a big 
family, those at Whitsuntide, peace and comfort 
at home. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS n 

LUCKY PERIODS FOR MARRIAGES 

The notion that certain times of the year are 
more favorable to marriages than others, had its 
origin in the days of ancient Rome. The goddess 
Maia was not propitious to marital happiness, 
whereas Juno, as a good and virtuous wife of 
Jupiter, was the* patron of happy marriages. 
Brides, therefore, selected June in preference to 
May, as their hymeneal month. For similar rea- 
sons March being dedicated to the god Mars, was 
not a favorable month, as disputes were apt to be 
the rule between the contracting parties. Every 
month had its good or bad influence. 

Even at the present time, May is considered an 
unlucky month for marriages. In Oriental coun- 
tries, however, May being the month of flowers, 
is the proper month for orange blossoms. 

June is a popular month for marriages among 
Americans and Europeans. Some authorities be- 
lieve that June's having the longest day of the year 
is symbolical of a long and happy marriage. 

A wedding on St. Valentine's Day or other 
popular holiday, indicates a happy union. 

Being married during a thunder storm is a sign 
of bad luck. If the sun shines right after a 
storm, the auspices are good for a happy union. 



12 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

Getting married on Sunday is a sure sign of a 
fortunate union. Friday is a bad day on which 
to get married. Other days of the week are about 
equal in their effect upon the destinies of a mar- 
ried pair. 

A marriage during a heavy snow-storm is con- 
sidered lucky; although the contracting parties may 
never be wealthy, they will be happy. 

An old astrological almanac gives the following 
as lucky days on which to be married : — 



January, 


2 


4 


ii 


19 


21 


February, 


I 


3 


IO 


19 


21 


March, 


3 


5 


12 


20 


23 


April, 


2 


4 


12 


20 


22 


May, 


2 


4 


12 


20 


23 


June, 


I 


3 


II 


19 


21 


July, 


I 


3 


12 


19 


21 


August, 


2 


ii 


18 


20 


30 


September, 


I 


9 


16 


18 


28 


October, 


18 


15 


17 


27 


29 


November, 


5 


ii 


13 


22 


25 


December, 


i 


8 


10 


19 


23 



31 



29 

BRIDAL CAKES — BRIDESMAIDS 

Bride cakes, or wedding cakes, are a survival 
of an ancient Roman custom. When a wedding 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 13 

was solemnized the bride and groom ate a cake 
of wheat or barley in the presence of ten wit- 
nesses. The crumbs were carefully preserved by 
the unmarried women present to insure their 
getting husbands. 

Slices of cake passed thru the bride's wedding 
ring and eaten by the bridesmaids, will bring 
a husband within a year. 

A piece of wedding cake should be put under the 
pillow of a maiden and if she dreams of a man, 
she will marry him within a year. 

In some countries a plain gold ring is baked in 
the wedding cake and the maiden who gets the 
slice with the ring will have the privilege of pro- 
posing to a man of her choice. 

Bridesmaids date from Anglo-Saxon times. It 
was the bridesmaid's duty to escort the bride to 
church, and it was believed that the girl on whom 
this honor fell would be married within a year. 

A bridesmaid who stumbles on the way to the 
altar will die an old maid. 

It is a custom for the groom to present his at- 
tendants with some gift as a souvenir of the oc- 
casion. This must be carefully preserved. If 
lost, the loser is apt to remain unmarried. 



14 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

SHOES AND WEDDINGS 

Throwing a shoe over or at a newly married 
couple is a custom in many countries and is sup- 
posed to bring good luck. The origin is uncer- 
tain but the shoe has been considered a symbol of 
authority, and as the bride has just broken from 
her parent's protection it is probable that the act 
symbolizes the breaking away from old associates. 
It has also been explained that it is thrown at the 
bridegroom in the spirit of retaliation for having 
carried off the bride. 

It is now looked upon as an augury of luck and 
of long life to the bride. In an old book by Ford- 
ham we read, "He would have been content had his 
neighbors thrown his old shoes after him when he 
went home, in sign of good luck." Ben Jonson 
wrote in a letter, "Would I had Kemp's shoes to 
throw after you, — " Kemp being a man remark- 
able for his good fortune. John Heywood in an 
old play says: "Now for good luck cast an old 
shoe after 'me." Beaumont and Fletcher say in 
one of their comedies: "Your shoes are old, pray 
put 'em off and let one fling 'em after us." 

In Scandinavia a shoe of the bride is thrown 
among the wedding guests and good luck or a 
speedy marriage attends the one who catches it- 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 15 

In Scotland a volley of old shoes or slippers 
is cast at the couple for luck, but true to Scottish 
thrift, they are all collected again after the couple 
has left. 

In the Isle of Man a shoe is thrown after the 
groom as he leaves his home on the way to be 
married. If by stratagem one of the bride's shoes 
can be taken off her feet on the way to church, 
it has to be ransomed by the bridegroom, who 
must treat the entire crowd. 

Among the ancient Peruvians it used to be the 
custom for a prospective groom to go to the girl's 
house and, after gaining her father's consent, put 
a pair of shoes on her feet. If she consented, he 
led her to his home with the shoes on. 

In Russia it is the custom to throw an old shoe 
or broken crockery for luck at the door of a newly 
married couple, — crockery being cheaper than 
leather. 

In parts of Hungary it is customary on the 
wedding night for the groom to drink a toast to 
his fair lady out of her slipper. 

Among the Orthodox Jews the shoe has a dif- 
ferent marital function. A childless widow is 
constrained, according to the Bible, to marry her 
deceased husband's brother. If, however, she de- 



16 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

clines, he may give her a release. In that case 
she fastens the laces of his shoe and is free to 
marry whom she pleases. 

The shoe as a symbol of a fruitful marriage is 
celebrated in that well-known Mother Goose 
rhyme : 

"There was an old woman who lived in a shoe; 
She had so many children she didn't know what 
to do."- 



CHAPTER III 
RINGS 

Rings set with certain precious stones or en- 
graved with mystic characters were in all times 
supposed to influence the character and conduct 
of people. There are many old legends about the 
wonderful effect of these charms. 

The ring worn by the Jewish High Priest was 
supposed to possess wonderful powers, given by 
heaven. The ring worn by Solomon gave him 
divine powers by which he acquired the knowledge 
of the laws of the universe. 

The wedding ring which Joseph was supposed 
to have given to the Virgin Mary was an object 
of adoration for many ages, and many miracles 
were accomplished by it. It is still shown in the 
Cathedral of Perugia, but it seems that other 
churches also make claim to possessing the orig- 
inal. This ring, however, has been described as 
a very thick gold circlet, large enough to fit a 
man's thumb. 

The power of making its wearer invisible was 
ascribed to the ring worn by King Gyges of 
Lydia, and it had also many other powers, such 

17 



18 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

as bringing together long separated friends, allay- 
ing jealously, etc. 

Astrological rings are worn to the present day, 
the stone or metal being in conformity with the 
signs of the planets, and thus bringing luck to 
the wearer. 

Rings are often used for divination. A number 
of rings, each inscribed with a name, are thrown 
into a bag, and one drawn at random. The 
answer to any question is thus given. 

Rings are considered a preventive of many 
diseases. For the cure of croup an amber ring 
is often worn. For cramp and abdominal pains, 
a ring made of a coffin nail is supposed to be 
efficacious. For rheumatism, a copper ring, or 
one of copper and zinc welded together, is thought 
to have curative powers. 

Marcellus, an old Roman physician, prescribed 
for a pain in the side, a gold ring inscribed with 
certain Greek characters and worn on the hand of 
the side opposite the pain. Trallian, another an- 
cient doctor, cured colic and bilious complaints by 
an octangular ring of iron on which he engraved 
a message to the disease to leave the body. 

Rings on which were engraved the names of 
three kings of Cologne were considered efficacious 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 19 

in the cure of various disorders. On them were 
also engraved the words, "God is a remedy." 

For sore eyes, a plain gold wedding ring is con- 
sidered a sovereign remedy to this day. 

A ring made of a silver coin, taken from a 
beggar, is supposed to be a cure for epilepsy. 

Among the peasantry of France, before a couple 
are wed, a ring of iron is put on the forefinger 
of the bride. It is usually made of a nail of a 
horseshoe. In certain parts a ring of straw is 
used. These are first blessed by the priest and 
insure a happy life. 

In Russia, in order to discover which girl of a 
village shall be married first, each places a ring 
in a little heap of corn on the barn floor. A 
rooster is then let loose among the corn. He 
pecks at the grains until one ring is exposed. The 
owner will be married before her companions. 

In Sweden girls hide under teacups or kitchen 
pots a ring, a coin and a piece of black ribbon. 
If the ring comes to light first, the owner will 
marry, if the coin, she will get a rich husband, 
but if the ribbon, she will die an old maid. 

To find a ring is a sign of good luck if it be 
gold, of peace of mind if it be silver, but of 
trouble, if it be brass. 



20 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

ENQAGEMENT AND WEDDING RINGS 

Rings have figured prominently in marriages 
from prehistoric times, and many superstitions 
cling to them. It is not strange that a rite that 
is fraught with such serious results to the con- 
racting parties should have awakened a sense of 
dread and a desire to foretell the future by specu- 
lation and divination. 

Among some peoples instead of exchanging 
rings a piece of gold or money is broken in halves, 
each party keeping a half. To lose one's half is 
considered very unlucky. 
An engagement ring is supposed to be: 
is a harbinger of luck and happiness. 

An engagement ring with the bride's birthstone 
"A contract of eternal bond of love, 
Confirmed by mutual joinder of your hands." 
Formerly men wore engagement rings, as well 
as women, but in the course of time left them off 
as being a sign of bondage. 

A diamond engagement ring is especially lucky, 
as diamonds are considered the highest form of 
gift, and the sparkle is supposed to originate in 
the fires of love. 

A pearl in a ring is unlucky, as pearls signify 
tears. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 21 

To lose a stone out of an engagement ring fore- 
tells bad luck, unless it is replaced before the wed- 
ding takes place. 

During the Commonwealth in England, the 
Puritans tried to abolish wedding rings as being 
a remnant of heathen practice. 

The ring, being round and without end, is a sym- 
bol of never-ending love and affection that should 
continue to flow in an uninterrupted circle. 

If a wedding ring breaks, it is a sign of marital 
trouble. 

A wedding ring that has been worn to a thin 
thread is lucky and brings luck to the wearer's 
children. 

The wedding ring is usually worn on the fourth 
finger of the left hand. The probable reason is 
that the left hand is not used as much as the right 
and the fourth finger is rarely used alone. 

It was formerly believed that a special artery led 
from the heart to the fourth finger. 

Among Orientals the ring is usually worn on the 
index finger of the left hand, which is called the 
lucky finger. 

A wedding ring rubbed three times on the eye 
is supposed to be a cure for styes. 



22 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

A wedding ring should be turned around three 
times if you want your wish to come true. 

It is unlucky to take off your wedding ring ex- 
cept in cases of necessity. 



CHAPTER IV 

LUCKY AND UNLUCKY DAYS AND 
SEASONS 

The belief that some days bring luck and others 
the opposite, is prevalent the world over and has 
its origin in astrology. Few intelligent people 
are free from this superstition. 

If a person has had luck on a certain day, three 
times in succession, it is safe to assume that it is 
his lucky day and any business undertaken on that 
day will prove successful. Conversely, if a day 
has shown itself unfortunate, business or travel- 
ling should be avoided on that day. 

A day that is good for one person may be cor- 
respondingly unlucky for another. What is one 
man's food is another man's poison. 

Religious persons believe that the last Monday 
in December is unlucky for serious matters, as 
Jesus was betrayed on that day, 

Friday is generally considered unlucky for any 
new undertaking, because Jesus was crucified on 
that day. 

If Friday falls on the thirteenth of any month, 
it is doubly unlucky for business or speculation. 

23 



24 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

John Gibbons, an eminent scientist considered 
Friday an unusually lucky day. He was born, 
christened and married on that day and was for- 
tunate in all of his undertakings. 

To move into a new home on Friday is un- 
lucky. Monday and Wednesday are particularly 
fortunate. 

To be born on the 29th of February, leap year, 
is considered lucky and the person will be success- 
ful as a speculator. 

An old verse says: 

"There are days of which the careful heed, 
When enterprise will sure succeed/ ' 

Books on astrology give the following as un- 
lucky days: 

17 29 



January, 


1 


2 


4 


5 


10 


15 


February, 


8 


10 


17 


26 


27 


28 


March, 


16 


17 


20 








April, 


7 


8 


10 


16 


20 


21 


May, 


3 


6 


7 


15 


20 




June, 


4 


8 


10 


22 






July, 


15 


21 










August, 


1 


9 


20 


29 


3° 




September, 


3 


4 


6 


7 


21 


n 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 25 

October, 4 6 16 24 
November, 5 6 15 20 29 30 
December, 6 y 9 15 22 

Never undertake any important business on a 
day that has brought you any misfortune or calam- 
ity. 

According to old astrologers, six days are 
perilous to sick persons, and it is not safe to let 
blood on these days. They are January 3, July 1, 
October 2, April 30, August 1, and December 31. 

Thursday in May was never to be regarded as 
a holy day, according to an ancient church author- 
ity. 

No vines are to be planted during leap year, as 
they will not thrive. 

An old missal gives the following predictions 
regarding certain days of the year: 
January — 

Of this first month the opening day 

And seventh like a sword will slay. 
February — 

The third day bringeth down to death, 

The fourth will stop a strong man's breath. 
March — 

The first the greedy glutton slays, 

The fourth cuts short the drunkard's days. 



26 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

April — 

The tenth day and the eleventh too, 
Are ready death's fell work to do. 

May — 

The third to slay poor men had power, 
The seventh destroyeth in an hour. 

June — 

The tenth a pallid visage shows, 

No faith nor truce the fifteenth knows. 

July- 

The thirteenth is a fatal day, 
The tenth alike will mortals slay. 

August — 

The first kills strong men at a blow, 
The second lays a cohort low. 

September — 

The third day of the month September 
And tenth bring evil to each member. 

October — 

The third and tenth with poisoned breath 
To men are foes as foul as death. 

November — 

The fifth bears scorpion stings of pain, 
The third comes with distraction's train. 

December — 

The seventh is bad for human life, 
The tenth with serpent's sting is rife. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 27 

"The lucky have whole days in which to choose, 

The unlucky have but hours, and these they 
lose." 

Sunday is a pun day, Monday 's a dun day, 
Tuesday 's a news day, Wednesday 's a friend's 
day, Thursday 's a cursed day, Friday 's a dry day, 
Saturday 's the latter day. 

Born on Monday, fair of face ; born on Tuesday, 
full of grace; born on Wednesday, sour and sad; 
born on Thursday, merry and glad; born on 
Friday, worthily given; born on Saturday, work 
hard for your living. Born on Sunday, you '11 
never know want. 

The day of the week on which the 3rd of May 
falls is unlucky for taking an account of cattle 
on a farm. St. Stephen's day is unlucky for 
bleeding horses. 

The Spanish have a proverb which says: Don't 
wed, don't go aboard a ship-and don't leave your 
wife on Thursday. 

According to a Spanish belief, Saturday always 
is sunny and therefore lucky. Wednesday in 
Passion Week is always rainy and therefore un- 
lucky. On that day it is said that Peter went 
out and wept, hence heaven sends rain to com- 
memorate his tears. 



28 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

An Italian belief fixes Tuesday and Friday as 
unlucky days for a voyage and for a marriage. 

The Japanese have designated five days of the 
year as unlucky, and in order to avert their bad 
influence have made them the days of great festi- 
vals. It is customary to wish one another happi- 
ness on those days in order to oppose their other- 
wise unhappy effects. They never begin a jour- 
ney on an inauspicious day and there is a printed 
table in all their roadhouses and inns, showing 
what days of the month are unfavorable for 
travel. 

The French regard Sunday as a very lucky day 
for all enterprises. 

According to an old Hebraic tradition, the sun 
always shines on Wednesday, for according to the 
Bible, it was created on that day. Therefore, 
it is a good day for any enterprise. 

The 14th of April, 1360, was called "Black 
Monday." King Edward III with his army lay 
before Paris and the day was so dark, cold and 
Unhealthy that many soldiers died from exposure 
and were frozen on the backs of their horses. 
This day was commemorated in England for many 
years. 

The Turks consider the 13th, 14th and 15th 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 29 

of each month as lucky days to transact business 
and go on a voyage. 

It is considered unlucky to take a trip imme- 
diately after hearing of the death of a friend. 

In certain parts of England, Tuesday and 
Wednesday are lucky days. It is thought unlucky 
to turn a feather bed or mattress on Sunday. 

A Scotchman rarely begins anything on the day 
of the week on which May 3rd falls. He calls 
it the "Dismal Day." 

Among the Hindoos, Monday is considered a 
lucky day for a trip. Sunday is lucky for sowing 
seed or beginning a building. Tuesday is lucky 
for soldiers in battle. Wednesday is a lucky day 
for merchants and good for collecting debts. 
Thursday is good for beginning a new business. 
Friday is lucky for the making of friends and 
the wearing of new garments. Saturday is un- 
lucky, as it excites quarrels. 

NEW YEAR'S SUPERSTITIONS 

The first day of the year is naturally a day of 
importance as its events may have a tendency to 
affect all the days that are to follow. Many a 
strange belief, therefore, centres about this day 
in all lands, and the symbols of future good or 



30 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

bad luck are eagerly sought in everything that 
occurs. 

In many parts of England it is believed that if 
a male person crosses the threshold first, it be- 
tokens good luck, whereas, if a female be the 
first to cross, bad luck is sure to follow. A man 
or boy, therefore, is often hired to enter a house 
before the occupants are up. Whole bands of 
males are employed for a small fee, for this pur- 
pose. 

If a clergyman be the first to enter a home on 
New Year's Day the significance is good. 

Chimneys used to be cleaned on New Year's 
Day in England, so that luck could descend and 
remain all the year. 

It was considered luckier for a dark-haired man 
than for a fair-haired man to be the first to enter 
a home. A bachelor was luckier than a married 
man. A widower brought bad luck. 

It is customary in some parts for the first visitor 
to bring a gift of a cake or loaf of bread, to in- 
dicate prosperity for the rest of the year. 

It is considered unlucky to remove anything 
from a house on New Year's Day, until something 
has been brought in from without. Each visitor 
therefore brings a slight gift. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 31 

Eating a cake is considered a sure bringer of 
luck on the first of the year. In rural districts, 
special New Year cakes are baked for this pur- 
pose. 

To lend something to a friend is sure to bring 
a good return. 

To put on new clothes on New Year is con- 
sidered lucky, so also to bathe. 

Money earned on New Year's Day will bring 
a hundredfold in its train. 

Resolutions made on New Year's day should 
be carried out, if they are good, and will insure 
good luck. 

It is good to give alms on the New Year. In 
many parts poor folks are invited to partake of 
the family's cheer. 

APRIL FOOL'S DAY 

The first of April was celebrated among the 
ancients as the beginning of the vernal equinox 
amid general frolicking, and from that is de- 
rived our own April Fool's Day. It is custom- 
ary to send people upon foolish errands and make 
them appear ridiculous. 

The celebration of this day is world wide. 
Even in pagan India the people join in the fun. 



32 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

In Mohammedan countries the highest castes vie 
with each other in playing practical jokes. 

To be fooled by a pretty girl denotes that you 
will marry the girl if you are single, or befriend 
her if already married. 

To lose your temper when sent on a fool's er- 
rand, means bad luck. 

To get married on April Fool's Day means that 
the lady will wear the breeches and the man play 
second fiddle. 

Children born on this day will be lucky in legi- 
timate business but unlucky in speculation. 

ASCENSION DAY 

This day commemorates the ascension of the 
Savior into heaven and is the occasion of many 
superstitions. 

To work on this day, especially in underground 
quarries or mines, is considered unlucky in Catho- 
lic countries, and even in England underground 
work is suspended from dawn to dusk. 

Wells and reservoirs are decorated with flowers 
to insure pure water during the year. 

To fall or stumble is particularly unlucky, and 
means a loss of health or money. An ancient way 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS. 33 

of preventing disaster if you have fallen is to lie 

flat on the ground and say: 

"Raise me up and comfort me, Angel of Mercy." 
Alms given to a blind or lame man on this day 

will come back a hundredfold. 

Begin the day by giving away a coin, however 

small. It will bring you an unexpected fortune 

within the year. 

EASTER SUPERSTITIONS 

Easter commemorates the resurrection of the 
Savior from the dead, and in all countries it is 
celebrated with peculiar rites and ceremonies. 

"Lifting" is an old custom that is supposed to 
illustrate the rising from the grave. Men and 
women would visit each other, and go through 
the following practice. A person would lie flat 
upon his back. Four others would take hold of 
him, one at each leg and arm and lift him up three 
times. There is a belief that if the recumbent 
person holds his breath, he can be lifted by the 
little finger of each of the four lifters. 

Girls were often put into a chair and lifted by 
boys who claimed a kiss for their trouble. This 
was also called "heaving/' 

Easter eggs had their origin in the belief that 



34 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

the egg was a symbol of the Resurrection. Some 
attribute their origin to their symbolizing Spring. 
Dyeing eggs in lively colors was a token of joy 
or gayety. Red dye was taken as a symbol of 
Christ's blood. 

Eggs are often blessed on Easter before being 
eaten. They then keep away bodily ailments. 

To win an egg by "picking" brings good luck. 
It is a popular game with boys. 

To find two yokes in an Easter egg foretells 
a great gain in wealth. 

To refuse to eat an Easter egg, if offered by a 
friend, signifies a loss of friendship. 

Rabbits are supposed to lay eggs on Easter. 
This is an old Teutonic belief. 

Among the more popular Easter pastimes are 
rolling eggs down hill and finding hidden eggs. 
Both are considered lucky ceremonies. 

It is considered lucky to plant garden seed and 
potatoes on Good Friday. 

Good Friday is the best day in the year for 
weaning babies. 

It is a sign of luck to break pottery on Good 
Friday. It will save the house from damage 
during the rest of the year. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 35 

ST. JOHN'S EVE. 

This is a popular day in England and Ireland 
and many a superstition is connected with it. 

Bonfires are built in memory of the ancient 
druids, and children dance around them. To 
jump over a bonfire insures luck for the next 
harvest. 

While looking into the fire, the men throw 
pieces of wheaten cake over their shoulders, 
saying : 

"This I give thee to preserve my horses, or 
my sheep." This is supposed to propitiate the 
Biblical idol, Baal. 

When a Scotchman goes to bathe or drink at 
a fountain or well on this day, he always ap- 
proaches by going around the spot from east to 
west on the south side, in imitation of the motion 
of the sun. This is called "going around the 
lucky way." 

Dancing around a fire propitiates the forces 
of evil. It is also a demonstration of joy and 
a plea for good luck. 

Watch the flames and if you see a familiar face 
therein, beware of that person, as he will harm 
you. 



36 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

CANDLEMAS DAY 

This day is celebrated in Christian countries as 
the day of the "Purification of the Virgin." It 
had its origin in Roman times in honor of the 
goddess Februa, after whom February was named. 

Every pious Catholic goes to church on that day 
with a lighted candle in supplication to "Our 
Lady" for success in household affairs. 

In many parts of England the day is connected 
with the collection of rents and leases are still 
made out beginning with Candlemas Day. 

The agent of an estate comes at midnight and 
knocks at the door of his tenant. "I come," he 
cries, "to demand my lord's just dues: eight 
groats and a penny, a loaf of bread, a cheese, a 
collar of brawn and a jack of beer. God save 
the King and the Lord of the manor." 

To pay rent on Candlemas Day insures freedom 
from debt for the year. 

To light a candle dedicated to one's saint, 
brings good luck. 

ST. VALENTINE'S DAY 

St. Valentine was a Christian bishop who suf- 
fered martyrdom in 270 A. D. on February 14th. 
He was later ordained the patron saint of true 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 37 

love. Maids and youths were accustomed to be- 
come engaged on that day in his honor. 

Sending verses and picture cards to one's best 
beloved has become a popular pastime in England 
and America on Valentine Day. A girl who 
fails to receive a remembrance from some swain 
is doomed to die an old maid. 

Says an old Valentine verse: 

"When I go out, the first swain I see, 

In spite of fortune shall my true love be." 

On the eve of Valentine's Day it was the cus- 
tom for a man to get five bay leaves, pin four of 
them to the corners of his pillow and the fifth 
in the centre, and then go to sleep. If he 
dreamed of a girl, he would marry her before 
the year was out. 

Another custom was to write your friends' 
names on pieces of paper, roll them in clay and 
throw them into a dish of water. The first paper 
that floated up indicated the one you would marry. 

If you expect a visit from your true love on 
that day, keep your eyes shut till he comes. If 
you see another man first, it may mean a loss of 
the other's love. 



38 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

To be married on Valentine's Day betokens hap- 
piness and success. 

HALLOWE'EN CUSTOMS 

Christian history has given us this day as 
sacred to all saints. In most countries there are 
curious rites and ceremonies connected with it. 

In Catholic lands it is a day of prayer and the 
people visit the churchyards and pray to the 
saints and to the departed of their families for 
success and for forgiveness of sins. In Protes- 
tant countries the day is given over to merriment. 

Hallowe'en was originally a day for remember- 
ing the dead. Ghosts and spirits are supposed to 
wander abroad at night. 

Witches and demons make the night their own, 
and woe to the person they catch after dark. 

Spectres made of pumpkins and sheets are used 
both to frighten men and to scare off evil spirits. 

To see your shadow cast by the moon is dis- 
tinctly unlucky. 

It is a time full of portents, and there are 
various ways of divining the name of one's future 
sweetheart. 

Place two nuts in the fire side by side. If 
they burst and fly apart it betokens bad luck and 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 39 

a separation. If they burn up together, it is a 
good omen, and means a happy marriage. 

Pare an apple so that the peel remains in one 
long piece. Swing this around your head three 
times and throw it on the floor. The letter it 
forms will be the initial of your sweetheart's 
name. 

Walk backwards, looking into a mirror. The 
first man or maid whose reflection you see, will 
marry you. 

To find two kernels in an almond on Hal- 
lowe'en's night is particularly lucky and means 
marriage within a month. 

HARVEST SUPERSTITIONS 

In ancient times, when the owners of land had 
gathered in their harvest, they feasted with their 
servants who helped till the ground. This idea 
has been perpetuated in our day in agricultural 
countries. Harvest Home is celebrated in most 
agricultural countries. In England it partakes of 
some of the aspects of Thanksgiving Day. 

The "Kern Baby" is much in evidence in these 
festivities. It is an image dressed up and deco- 
rated with corn or wheat and carried before the 
reapers as a sign of luck. 



40 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

In some places a big doll dressed up in tinsel 
with a sheaf of wheat under its arm is placed on 
a pole and the harvest hands dance around it, re- 
joicing. 

Sometimes a real girl is dressed up in a robe 
of wheat and is paraded around the field for luck. 
A corn supper in which all partake winds up the 
festivities. 

A special prayer to one's favorite saint is usual 
before the harvest, to insure good weather till 
the wheat is all garnered. 

In Catholic countries, the first wheat garnered 
is shaped into a cross which is hung in front of 
the granary for good luck. 

A red ear of corn is considered a lucky find. 
It should be carefully preserved until the next 
harvest. 

An ear of corn with seven or fourteen rows 
is especially lucky and betokens a good harvest. 

CHRISTMAS 

A festival corresponding to Christmas was held 
in Rome in honor of Bacchus, but with the ad- 
vent of Christianity it changed its character and 
was solemnized to celebrate the birth of Christ. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 41 

Many of the old pagan rites and superstitions still 
remain. 

Mistletoe was held in high esteem by the druids 
and regarded with religious superstition. They 
used it in their incantations. It is used for decor- 
ating during Christmas, and is usually hung from 
the chandeliers. 

A girl standing under a piece of mistletoe may 
be kissed by any man who finds her there. If 
she refuses to be kissed, she invites bad luck. 
If she be kissed seven times in one day, she will 
marry one of the lucky fellows within a year. 

In olden days mistletoe was laid on the altars 
in churches as an emblem of the grace of the 
Savior, and betokened a prosperous year. 

In York, England, mistletoe is laid upon the 
altar of the cathedral and the priest proclaims 
freedom to all wicked souls. 

Evergreen leaves and boughs are also a relic of 
paganism, and are supposed to bring cheer and 
luck. 

The Christmas tree is a survival of northern 
mythology and was first made popular in Scan- 
dinavian countries when they adopted Christian- 
ity. It symbolizes the ever green and abiding 
power of salvation. 



42 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

Christmas candles probably had their origin in 
the Jewish festival of lights (Chanuca), which 
occurs at the same time. Lights are lit for seven 
days to commemorate the victories of the Maccab- 
bees. 

Yule logs are large logs of wood that are thrown 
into the grate to make the Christmas eve more 
festive. The flame is supposed to keep out evil 
influences. Christmas candles serve the same end. 

To see a familiar face in the blaze of a yule 
log, betokens an early marriage with the person 
thus seen. 

To become engaged on Christmas eve, is a sure 
sign of a happy married life. 

A child born on Christmas day will be free 
from care and very lucky. 

St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus is the patron 
saint of Christmas. He is supposed to come down 
the chimney with his pack on his back and dis- 
tribute toys and gifts to old and young. The 
only way to secure his favor is to be good and 
obedient. 

Kris Kringle is another name for Santa Claus. 
It is derived from the German "Krist Kindli" or 
Christ Child. He is represented as entering homes 
and making children happy on the "Holy Night." 



CHAPTER V 
SIGNS OF GOOD OR BAD LUCK 

"Good and ill luck," says the French philoso- 
pher, Montaigne, "are in my opinion sovereign 
powers. It is absurd to think that human prudence 
is able to act the same part as Fortune will do." 
Shakespeare says: 

"There's a divinity that shapes our ends, 
Rough-hew them how will will." 

The belief in the power of some object or 
some act to produce a change in one's fortunes 
for better or for worse, is inherent in the human 
race. There are few words in our language that 
have such a universal application as LUCK. The 
man who believes in nothing else, believes in 
luck and performs some mummery to propitiate 
the goddess of Fortune, who moves in such mys- 
terious ways to perform her deeds. 

Luck may be defined as chance, or if a man 
be religious, as Providence. Among the ancients, 
Fortuna was depicted as a blindfolded woman 
with a horn of plenty, or with a wheel as an em- 
blem of instability and chance. 

43 



44 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

The Romans had a habit of casting into an 
urn a stone every day, the color of the stone de- 
noting whether the person was in good or bad 
luck. At the end of the year the stones were 
counted and a balance cast to see whether good 
or bad preponderated. 

It is unlucky to be recalled after starting away 
on a voyage. At least a day should be allowed to 
elapse before starting out again. 

To leave home and be compelled to come back 
for some article which was forgotten, is unlucky, 
unless you sit down for a moment before going 
out a second time. 

Carrying a crust of bread in one's pocket is 
considered lucky and brings prosperity. 

If in eating you miss your mouth and the 
food falls, it is unlucky and denotes illness. 

A bent coin or one with a hole in it, are often 
carried for good luck. A crooked sixpence is 
popular for this purpose in England. 

In many rural districts it is customary to give 
back to a customer of corn or cattle a small part 
of the money he has just paid. This is called 
"luck money." 

In some countries the buyer gives the seller a 
small coin to insure his luck. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 45 

To count your gains is supposed to bring bad 
luck. To reckon on money you are to receive and 
lay out plans of spending it, is considered un- 
lucky. One should never count one's chickens 
before they are hatched. 

Burning tea leaves is supposed to bring good 
luck, but to burn the leaves of a rose is a bad 
omen. 

Finding a four-leaf clover is a sure sign of 
good luck. It should be worn in the lapel or 
pinned to one's coat. 

There is a legend that Eve on being ejected 
from Paradise took a four-leaf clover with her. 

To pluck an ash leaf was considered lucky in 
olden times. 

On meeting a person out on new business, it is 
well to salute him with "I wish you good luck." 

It is bad luck to shake hands with any one 
across the table. 

It is a bad omen to find the bellows on the 
dining table. 

It is a sign of ill luck to find money and not 
spend it. It should be spent in a good cause, or 
given in charity. 



46 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

"See a pin and pick it up, all the day you'll have 

good luck. 
See a pin and leave it lay, you will have bad 

luck all the day." 

It is lucky to throw a small coin into a well of 
drinking water. 

To sit crosslegged is considered a sign of good 
luck. To cross one's fingers is another way of 
averting evil. 

THE SIGN OF THE CROSS 

The Cross, the emblem of Christianity, has 
served many superstitions. It is a bringer of 
good luck and wards off evil. 

Contrary to the generally accepted belief, the 
Cross did not have its origin as a religious em- 
blem in Christianity. The Indians, when Colum- 
bus first landed, had similar devices. Cortez 
found the cross universally adored by the Aztecs, 
and this led the Spanish priests to claim that the 
devil had given it to them in order to damn them 
with a false religion. The Hindoos, too, had a 
cross among their religious symbols. 

Making the sign of the cross at rising or lying 
down, at going out or coming in, at lighting of 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 47 

candles or closing of windows, etc., is considered 
a pious and profitable ceremony. 

An old church writer says : 

"At the delivery of the bread and wine of 
the sacrament, the worshippers flourish with their 
thumbs like making the sign of the cross. They 
also do it when coming to church or saying their 
prayers." 

In Spain, "no woman goes in a coach or 
travels without crossing herself. It keeps away 
evil and ensures a safe trip." 

In Catholic countries, signposts and even tav- 
ern signs bear a cross as a sign of good luck. 

In some countries when a woman milks a cow 
she dips her finger in the milk with which she 
crosses the cow, muttering a prayer. This will 
make the milk flow freely. 

Easter buns are marked with a cross as a sign 
of faith. 

To hold up a crucifix, or anything resembling 
a cross was the surest way of defeating the devil. 
In "Faust," Valentine drives off Mephistofeles by 
holding up the cross-shaped hilt of his sword. 

During a thunder storm or in the face of sud- 
den danger, make the sign of the cross on your 
forehead or breast. 



48 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

To cross one's fingers during a game of chance, 
brings luck, and the reverse to your opponent. 

To dream of a cross is a sign of good fortune to 
follow shortly. 

To cross knives or forks at table is a sign of 
bad luck. 

In Sicily a bandit will not attack his victim 
without first crossing himself and praying to his 
favorite saint for protection. 

KNOCKING ON WOOD 

One of the most prevalent customs, indulged in 
by men of science as well as the illiterate man in 
the slums, is by touching or knocking on wood 
to ward off evil or prevent disappointment. Its 
origin is very much in doubt. Some attribute it 
to the ancient religious rite of touching a crucifix 
when taking an oath. It is also ascribed to the 
beads of a rosary touched in prayer. Among the 
ignorant peasants of Europe it may have had its 
beginning in the habit of knocking loudly to keep 
out evil spirits. Its introduction into this country 
seems to have been of recent date, but it has be- 
come well-nigh universal; even a president of the 
United States is accused of resorting to it. 

To brag about good health or success, accord- 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 49 

ing to the general belief, invites the envy of 
the powers of evil, and to counteract this you 
must, according to some authorities, touch wood; 
while according to other wisacres, you should 
knock on wood three times. 

Charms made of wood are often worn on 
watch chains so that the wearer may have an 
article handy for the purpose. 

From this practice other superstitions have or- 
iginated. A well-known financier always plays 
with his massive gold watch chain in the belief 
that the touch of gold will insure success. 

Sir Walter Scott, while a student at college, 
always fumbled with a wooden button which was 
attached to his coat. This brought him success 
in his recitations. It is related that when his fel- 
low students secretly cut off the button, he was 
so flustered on discovering its absence, that he 
failed hopelessly and was sent to the tail end of 
his class. 



CHAPTER VI 
LUCKY AND UNLUCKY OMENS 

"She that pricks bread with fork or knife, will 
never be a happy wife/' 

"Mend your clothes upon your back, sure you 
are to come to wrack." 

It is unlucky to use elder wood or evergreen to 
make a fire. 

To find an old flint arrow is considered lucky. 

To find nine peas in a pod is a forerunner of 
luck. 

The extreme tip of a calf's tongue, dried and 
carried in the pocket, will insure having some 
money always in your purse. 

A luck-stone, with a hole in it, is sure to bring 
luck. 

Four persons shaking hands in crosswise fash- 
ion, foretell a coming marriage. 

Two bells ringing in the house at one time fore- 
tell a parting. So also does a hollow cavity in a 
fresh-cut cake and a loaf that breaks in two 
while being cut. 

5o 



SIGNS, OMENS AND_ SUPERSTITIONS 51 

To enter a house with the left foot first brings 
bad luck to the occupants. 

CHRISTENING CUSTOMS 

Christening, as the name indicates, is a cere- 
mony which has for its object the consecrating of a 
child to the service of Christ, and starting him 
on his career as a Christian. It had its origin 
in the rites of John the Baptist, who belonged to 
a sect that believed that immersion in water would 
wash away all sins and prepare the neophyte for 
the Kingdom of God, which was supposed to be 
near at hand. 

In the middle ages a child was usually presented 
by its godparents with silver or gold spoons. A 
rich sponsor often gave a set of twelve spoons, 
one for each of the disciples. Less wealthy peo- 
ple gave one or more spoons. These were con- 
sidered lucky and induced the child to lead a 
virtuous life. 

The phrase "born with a silver spoon in its 
mouth/' arose from this custom. 

A silver cup is often given and the child that 
drinks from it is supposed to drink happiness 
during its life. 

The gift of coral and amber in the form of 



52 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

a chain or charm to a new-born baby is also be- 
lieved to bring good luck. Coral is supposed to 
be a defense against "Fascination" or witchcraft. 
Amber keeps away infectious diseases. 

A Sunday christening is considered lucky and 
the child will grow up devout. 

A child should always be dressed in white at 
its christening. Red ribbons should be avoided. 

Three aritcles are frequently given a child when 
it is taken to be christened: egg } salt and a coin. 
These will give it strength, happiness and wealth. 
„ Baptism in a church is luckier than in private. 

When a child gives a lusty yell during its 
christening, it is a sign that it will have strong 
lungs through life. 

If two children, a male and a female, are bap- 
tised together, the male should have the prefer- 
ence or it will grow up to be effeminate. 

BELIEFS CONCERNING CHILDREN 

It is unlucky to measure a baby with a string 
or tape measure, as it may stop growing. 

To step over a young child is unlucky and may 
stunt its growth. 

To hand a child through an open window will 
stop the little one's growth. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 53 

Children that cry a lot are sure to be lucky. 
They will develop fine eyes and broad shoulders. 
This does not apply where the crying is caused 
by illness or pain. 

Women in pregnancy often refuse to take an 
oath before an officer of the court as it is sup- 
posed to influence the unborn child. 

It is supposed to be unlucky for a child to walk 
backward when going on an errand. 

In Scotland, when a young baby is taken out for 
its first airing, the mother or nurse gives some- 
thing to eat to the first person she meets. This 
ensures the baby's good luck. It is called "the 
bairn's piece." 

When a child is taken from its mother and car- 
ried out of the bedroom for the first time, it is 
luckier to take it upstairs than down. If there 
is no upstairs, the same effect can be accomplished 
by mounting a short elevation, a platform, or the 
rung of a ladder. 

When a baby is carried to church to be baptized, 
it should be carried by a woman who is known to 
have had good luck. 

When a baby is carried into a neighbor's house 
for the first time, it should be carried there by 
the mother herself, in order to insure good luck. 



54 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

First of all, however, the baby should be carried to 
church. 

A creeping child will have better luck than one 
that does not creep. 

When a very young baby smiles in its sleep, 
it is supposed to hold converse with the angels. 

BELIEFS CONCERNING EGGS 

Eggs have many mystic meanings, and in olden 
times were supposed to symbolize the world. 
The yoke represented our earth, the white was its 
atmosphere, and the shell was the firmament. It 
was believed that the universe had its origin in 
an egg f and that God brooded over it until it 
was hatched out. Milton says: "Dovelike satst 
brooding o'er the vast abyss/' 

According to an old theorist, the egg typified 
the Messiah, the seed that was to bring forth 
salvation. The Abyssinians portray the world as 
a great ostrich egg. 

The Syrians used to speak of their ancestors as 
the progeny of eggs. The Hawaiians believe that 
their island was produced by the bursting of a 
huge egg which had been laid on the water by 
a bird. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 55 

The ancients often said, "Everything springs 
from the egg. It is Nature's cradle." 

Egyptians worshipped Cneph, the architect of 
the world, who was represented with an egg com- 
ing out of his mouth. 

The druids used eggs in their religious festi- 
vals and considered it the symbol of fecundity. 
Every druid wore an egg about his neck, encased 
in gold, as a symbol of his priestly authority. 

The Jews use an egg in their Passover service 
as a symbol of Divine Power and help. 

Eggs laid on Good Friday are revered in Cath- 
olic countries as bringing good luck, and are care- 
fully kept all year as talismans. They are sup- 
posed to keep the house free from fire. 

In Scotland an "eirack's" egg, that is, the first 
egg that is laid by a young hen, is gathered as 
the principal ingredient of Hallowe'en charm. At 
midnight the egg is broken so that the white is- 
sues out drop by drop. It is allowed to fall into 
a wine glass two-thirds full of water. The palm 
of the hand is placed over the rim of the glass 
which is turned bottom up, and the albumen set- 
tles down near the hand. It assumes vague, 
shadowy forms which foretell the occupation the 



56 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

person will best thrive in. Thus, if it looks like 
a ship, the man should become a sailor. 

Another custom in connection with an "eirack's" 
egg> is to take the white in one's mouth and go out 
into the night without swallowing a drop. If one 
hears the name of a man or woman called out 
aloud, it foretells the name of the future wife or 
husband. 

Among other curious Hallowe'en customs is the 
following: Take a hard-boiled egg t remove some 
of the yoke, and fill it up with salt. Then eat the 
egg y salt and shell. Do not drink a drop of water 
till morning. If you dream of a person of the 
opposite sex, it means a marriage, but if the 
person you dream of seems to offer you a glass of 
water, it means that you will be jilted. 

Birds' eggs have been believed to have many 
mysterious qualities. The eggs of an owl put 
into the cup of a drunkard will cause a loathing 
of liquor. 

A stork's egg was also considered as a cure of 
the habit of drinking. 

Persons afflicted with ague are instructed to 
visit the nearest crossroads five times in succes- 
sion and there bury a new-laid egg. Their dis- 
ease will leave them by morning and never return. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 57 

Strict silence must be maintained during the whole 
operation, as to speak to any one would prevent 
its success. 

For the plague, eggs were often prescribed. 
They were usually filled with drugs. 

It is believed in England's rural districts that 
if one brings primroses into a house, the number 
must be at least thirteen, as the hens about the 
place will only hatch so many eggs during the 
season as there are primroses. 

When flowers blossom early and are numerous, 
it is believed that hens lay more than in other 
seasons. 

When owners of horses eat eggs, it is said that 
they should eat an even number, otherwise some 
mischief will befall their horses. Grooms are not 
allowed to eat eggs, and jockeys must wash their 
hands after eating them. 

Farmers' wives usually set their hens on an 
odd number of eggs, for to set them on an even 
number often results in a failure to hatch out a 
brood. 

In Derbyshire the number of eggs put under a 
hen must be either eleven or thirteen. If twelve 
hens are set, the brood will not hatch out, or 
will come to grief afterward. 



58 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

In setting a litter of eggs under a hen it is 
lucky to swing a lighted candle over the nest as 
a charm to prevent hawks or other animals from 
destroying the eggs or the young chicks. 

In some Catholic countries, the tenth egg laid 
by a fowl is supposed to be bigger than the rest, 
and is usually offered to the priest. 

Breaking egg shells over a child is supposed 
to keep him safe from witchcraft. 

The goose that lays a golden egg is a popular 
myth in many countries. To receive such a valu- 
able gift, it is necessary to invoke the name and 
help of the devil. 

In some sections, it is considered unlucky to 
let eggs go out of the house after sunset. It is 
also considered unlucky to gather eggs after dark. 
All eggs should be gathered in the forenoon. It 
is unlucky to gather eggs on Sunday or to set 
a hen on the Sabbath. 

Duck's eggs, brought into the house after sun- 
set will never hatch. 

Egg shells should not be burned, or the hens 
will cease to lay. 

Eggs brought into the house or barn over run- 
ning water, will not hatch. 

When a child visits a house for the first time, 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 59 

it is lucky to give him an egg that was laid that 
morning. It will give the child a "start in life" 
that will bring success. 

To dream of an egg is lucky and means that 
a fortune is at hand. 

Strings of blown egg shells hung up in a dwell- 
ing are unlucky, but if hung up in an outhouse, 
bring good luck. 

Bats were supposed to come from eggs that 
had been hatched out by toads. 

In Java the bride, as a sign of submission, 
kneels before her master, then treads upon an egg 
and washes his feet with the yoke. 

The offering of an omelette to a newly married 
man by his mother-in-law, as a sign of devotion, 
is an old custom in Russia.. 

CHARMS AND AMULETS 

The word "amulet" comes from the Arab, 
"Hamala," which means to carry about. It is a 
charm or object usually hung about the neck or 
on the wrist to ward off sickness and evil. A 
charm is similar in its effect. 

People are spoken of as having a charmed 
life, which means that they seem to be immune to 



6o SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

accidents or illness. Many wear charms to in- 
sure this result. 

Some charms are engraved with peculiar figures 
called "talismans," which are supposed to have 
the power to prevent loss or illness. They are 
often engraved on some seal or precious stone, 
and worn on the finger or on a chain about the 
neck. 

The practice of wearing charms or amulets is 
very ancient, and many of the objects found in 
Egyptian tombs are amulets, intended to serve 
the spirits of the dead. Many charms have ob- 
tained historic importance, as for instance the 
famous Spanish opal in the British museum. 

The czar was supposed to be fond of an an- 
cient ring in which is embedded a piece of the 
true cross. It was supposed to shield its wearer 
from death and danger, although it hardly helped 
him to keep his throne. He attached such im- 
portance to it, that on one occasion he started out 
on a journey without it, when suddenly discover- 
ing his loss, he delayed the trip eight hours till a 
messenger went and got it. 

Oriental wrestlers will not go into the prize 
ring without wearing a charm about their necks. 

Modern folks for the most part wear some sort 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 61 

of amulet, or carry a charm in their pockets, but 
they do it secretly. They may not actually be- 
lieve in its efficacy but want to get the benefit of 
it in case it should have some hidden virtue. 

Horseshoe-shaped pins, or charms, are consid- 
ered very lucky, so is four-leaved clover. Wish- 
bones, too, have come into favor in recent years 
as they are supposed to have the power of mak- 
ing one's wishes come true. 

Little pigs are popular as charms, as they are 
supposed to bring good luck. In fact, the Ger- 
mans say, "Ich habe Schwein," when they want to 
signify that they are lucky. 

Lucky pennies or other coins are to be found in 
many pockets. They drive away evil influences in 
business operations and bring luck in money mat- 
ters. They must be turned over in one's pocket 
at the time of the transaction. * 

Horse chestnuts or a small potato are consid- 
ered efficacious charms against rheumatism. They 
must be carried in the pocket where they soon be- 
come hard and absorb all tendency to disease. 

The relics of the saints, such as particles of 
bones, bits of hair, etc., or splinters from the 
cross, have been revered in all Christian lands 
for their miracle-working powers. Many churches 



62 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

have been erected and many shrines dedicated to 
house some such precious relic. 

At St. Ann de Beau Pre Church near Quebec, 
and at St. Ann Church in New York, wonders 
are performed daily and many cripples healed 
through touching the particle of bone of the 
Virgin's mother. 

A charm with the figure of a fish or the word 
"Ichthus," formed by the Greek initials of the 
name of Jesus, is worn by the Greek Christians 
and brings success. 

Coins and bits of metal stamped with a cross are 
worn about the neck in many lands as a guarantee 
of good luck. They are also looked upon as a 
cure of epilepsy. 

Rings with religious signs and symbols are 
often used to cure disease or insure success of the 
crops. 

In the Orient, jade or ornaments from this stone 
are used as charms against disease or disaster. 
They usually have some symbolic figures carved 
upon them. 

Jet was and in some countries is still supposed 
to exert a remarkable power over the brain and 
nerves, and is therefore much prized for jewelry 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 63 

and charms. It was supposed in olden days to 
drive away devils and serpents. 

Amber is a favorite substance for charms in 
countries adjoining the Mediterranean. It is sup- 
posed to keep off infectious disease, epilepsy and 
other evils. It is frequently made into necklaces 
for babies. 

Many other stones, gems or natural substances 
are used the world over for their supposed cura- 
tive powers, and huge volumes have been written 
concerning them. 

Adder stones are supposed to be efficacious 
against disease of cattle. 

Carrying a human molar tooth as a charm is 
often considered a remedy for toothache. 

Amulets to insure victory are frequent, and 
many a soldier goes into battle in the firm belief 
that the amulet he wears about his neck or on 
his arm will see him safely through. Bibles car- 
ried about the person are supposed to be the most 
efficacious of these, and in point of fact many 
a bullet has been stopped by a Bible placed near 
the heart. 

During a plague in England red tape was in 
great demand to ward off the evil. It was cut 



64 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

into half -yard lengths and worn about the neck 
until all danger was past. 

Amber and coral necklaces are often placed 
on children to give them relief from teething. 
Rings and nipples of these substances are pro- 
vided for similar purposes. 

A charm consisting of laurel leaves is often 
worn as a protection against lightning. 

Scapulars, pieces of brown cloth in which are 
stitched certain verses from the New Testament, 
are worn to a great extent by Catholics as a pre- 
ventive against perils of flood and sickness. 

MASCOTS 

The word "mascot" is of French origin and 
designates anything from a piece of string to a 
human being that is supposed to influence the 
Fates for the benefit of the possessor. A comic 
opera has been built around the idea, in which a 
king has very bad luck, until a pretty girl is sent 
to him as a mascot, when his fortune begins. 

Ships often take a mascot on board before 
they sail. This is usually a dog, monkey or 
goat, and insures a pleasant voyage. 

Regiments of soldiers usually adopt a mascot, 
an animal that accompanies them on their marches. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 65 

Baseball and football teams take a mascot with 
them to insure victory. 

Mascots frequently take the shape of a horse- 
shoe, charm, four-leaf clover or amulet to be 
worn on the person. 

The popularity of mascots and in fact all 
objects that are supposed to bring luck is best 
explained by the fact that they suggest luck, and 
the owner acts on the suggestion. A person be- 
lieving that some object is going to bring him 
fortune, will act with greater faith and assurance, 
thus bringing about the condition which he de- 
sires. 

In regard to charms the decorative feature 
appeals to many; fear and imagination come next 
in their influence on the mind. 

Regarding human mascots, their influence is 
supposed to be hereditary. 

HORSESHOE LORE 

The origin of a belief in the horseshoe as 
an emblem of good luck can be traced to the an- 
cient days of phallic worship. The peculiar shape 
of the shoe became the emblem of sex and of pro- 
ductivity. It is a very old belief, therefore, that 
a horseshoe will have an influence for good. 



66 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

The Moors believed in the horseshoe to such 
an extent that their architecture reflects it. Their 
mosque and temples all show an arch formation 
that had its origin in the form of a shoe, and they 
believed that this would insure stability. 

The druids also believed in its efficacy, and 
many of their religious' places, like Stonehenge 
in England, have the semi-circular form of a 
horseshoe. 

An old Roman general ascribed his defeat to 
the loss of a horseshoe. Benjamin Franklin para- 
phrased this by writing: "Through the loss of 
a nail a shoe was lost, through the loss of a 
shoe a horse was lost, through the loss of a horse 
a battle was lost." 

To find a horseshoe is considered lucky. It 
should be hung over the door of the house or 
barn. It will ensure a good harvest if suspended 
over the barn. 

A horseshoe should be hung with the open 
ends upwards, so that it will "hold luck." If 
hung the other way, it will "spill luck." 

When going on a long voyage, it will bring 
luck to carry a horseshoe in your baggage. 

A scarf pin or watch charm in the shape of a 
horseshoe is lucky. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 67 

The wishbone, or collar bone of a chicken, is 
considered lucky on account of its resemblance in 
shape to a horseshoe. Two people, each pulling 
at one end, can determine who will get married 
first. The longer piece is the lucky one. 

A horseshoe should have seven holes for nails, 
three on one side and four on the other side of 
the center heel. This will ensure double luck, 
as seven is a number of good fortune. 

Rings made of horseshoe nails are sovereign 
remedies against bad luck, disease and trouble. 

PIN SUPERSTITIONS 

To pick up a pin is lucky; let it lie, is bad 
luck. 

If a pin lies with its head toward you it is 
a good sign, but beware of trouble if the point 
is towards you. 

To prick yourself with a pin on starting en a 
trip is a bad omen. 

It will break friendship to present any one with 
a pin, such as a scarf pin or the like. Such a gift 
should be bought. A cent or article of minor im- 
portance must be given in exchange. 



CHAPTER VII 
THE INFLUENCES OF MYTHICAL BEINGS 

The belief in fairies and other supernatural 
beings is universal, not only among children but 
among grown people as well, and many a quaint 
and interesting legend has been spun about these 
fascinating individuals. Fairy lore comprises the 
greater part of our books for young people, and 
without fairy tales the lives of children would be 
barren indeed. So, also, have many superstitions 
grown up about fairies, and they are believed in 
by folks that are intelligent as well as by those 
that are ignorant. 

Fairies are supposed to be supernatural beings, 
human in form but very often diminutive, with 
superior powers for good or evil. They have the 
power of invisibility, but can become visible 
when they wish. They are often invoked for 
aid, but are never worshipped as were the god- 
esses of the pagan world. They enter the habita- 
tions of mortals and spread their gifts. Some- 
times they do mischief. It is well to keep in the 
good graces of fairies. 

68 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 69 

The Hindoos believe in a kind of fairy that 
they call "Acvins." These assist in bringing 
lovers together, give succor in trouble and bring 
wealth to the deserving. 

Persians believe in Peris, delicate ethereal fe- 
males, who while not immortal, live very long. 
To assist or otherwise get into the good graces 
of a Peri means good luck, but to offend one, 
brings bad luck. 

The Arabian "Jinns" are fairies of a more 
austere kind. They are males who can do great 
damage if offended and whom it is therefore 
well to placate. They are supposed to have lived 
before Adam and were once a mighty race, but 
war and accident have slain many. Every time 
a star shoots across the sky it means the death 
of a jinn. They have the power to make them- 
selves visible or invisible. 

The Jews believed in Shedim, a species of 
fairy that was the offspring of Adam. These 
beings have wings, are similar to angels, eat, 
drink, make merry, and help any mortal who is 
kind to them. 

The Greeks and Romans had their own con- 
ceptions of fairies. They called them dryads, 
naiads, fauns, satyrs, etc. They mingled with 



70 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

mortals and often intermarried with them. They 
brought luck or the reverse as they were favor- 
ably inclined. They rewarded any kindness and 
punished transgressions. 

Fata Morgana is the Italian conception of a 
fairy, the personification of Fortune. Happy the 
person who wins her favor. 

In France, fairies have different names and 
characteristics. There are "follets" who are al- 
ways invisible but whose voices are often heard. 
They are mischievous and pelt the peasants with 
stones. They often enter a house and throw about 
the utensils and create disorder from a sense of 
humor that is often hard to understand. • Where 
a man is in their good graces, however, they 
do good and reward virtues. It is considered 
lucky to come across their tracks or circles in the 
grass. 

The French also believe in fees, lutins and 
goblins. These dance in circles, or fairy rings by 
night, haunt solitary springs and grottoes, ride 
horses and tie up the horses manes to form stir- 
rups. They preside at births, bring luck to babies 
in whom they take an interest, give presents, help 
along the lovelorn, and do other stunts. They 
often take a child out of its cradle and leave one 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 71 

of their own brood in its place. This is called 
a "changeling," and while such child is apt to 
be beautiful, its propensities are for evil. 

Scandinavians believe in elves, playful, ma- 
licious beings that are up to all sorts of mischief. 
They delight in perplexing people, tie the hair of 
sleeping children into knots, steal away articles, 
and cause no end of trouble. It is well to pro- 
pitiate them by kindness, and by leaving some- 
thing for them to eat in the grottoes where they 
are supposed to dwell. 

Teutonic races have their fairies, trolls, gnomes, 
dwarfs, who do all manner of mischief. Many 
are the strange tales told about them, and many 
are the rites and ceremonies resorted to by the 
peasantry to get into their good graces. 

The Irish are great believers in fairies, and 
their literature is filled with tales of their deeds. 
Their superstitions concerning them would fill a 
good-sized book. They dress in green, are very 
pretty and benevolent, help the peasants, bring 
lovers together, avoid law suits, do good by 
stealth, etc. 

Brownies and kelpies are the Scotch brand 
of fairies. They often appear in the form of 
cattle or horses, and when people ride on them, 



72 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

they throw them off and play other tricks. They 
are as mischievous as children, but do nothing 
particularly praiseworthy. 

English have their fairies, hobgoblins, Robin 
Good fellow, Puck, and other well-known char- 
acters. Shakespeare assembled them in one large 
clan, with Oberon as their king and Titania as 
their queen. They are a well-behaved crew, full 
of mischief but with good traits as well. 

Some of the more prominent superstitions con- 
cerning fairies are the following: 

A mole or defect on a person is supposed to 
be caused by a fairy nipping him before birth. 

A matted lock near the neck of a sleeping 
child is called an elflock and is the deed of a 
mischievous fairy. 

To throw away a peach stone out of a window 
is dangerous as it might strike a fairy and kill 
it. This would bring bad luck for seven years. 

Four-leaved clover usually marks the spot where 
fairies congregate and bring good luck. 

Round circles often found in the grass indi- 
cate the place where fairies dance. To sit in 
such a circle with one of the opposite sex, is 
sure to bring about a marriage. 

When a child is lucky it is a sure proof that 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 73 

a fairy godmother stood at its cradle at its birth. 

Fossil Echini turned up by the plow, are called 
fairy loaves. If you keep a fairy loaf in the 
house, you will never want for bread. 

If one comes across a "fairy ring," it is luckier 
to walk around it than across it. 

If you run around a " fairy ring" nine times, 
you can hear the sounds of merriment caused 
by the fairies dancing under ground. 

Fairies reward servants for cleanliness by put- 
ting a coin in their shoes. 

A fairy entering a dairy spoils the cream. 

In many sections of England a prayerbook is 
put under a child's pillow to keep away fairies 
and pixies. , 

Lumbago, epilepsy and fits are supposed to be 
caused by a shot from a malignant fairy. 

A knot hole in a deal door is bad as it will let 
fairies in. It must be plugged up at once. 

WITCHES 

The belief in witches is very old. At times 
in the history of mankind it has become epidemic 
and done untold damage. In the seventeenth 
century thousands of old women were burned at 
the stake for their supposed intercourse with 



74 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

the devil. Doctors and judges as well as ignor- 
ant people believed in this nonsense. The witch 
was supposed to be a woman who had sold her 
soul to the devil, and frequented the Devil's Sab- 
bath, riding thither on a broomstick. In rural 
districts the belief still prevails to some ex- 
tent. 

When horses break out in a sweat in the 
stable, it is believed that a witch has been riding 
them. 

When a horse's mane is tangled, a witch is 
supposed to have tied the knot to use as a stir- 
rup. 

Shoulder bones of sheep are called "hag- 
bones' ' because witches are believed to ride on 
them. 

Eggshells must be broken and not left to lie 
about the house, or they may be used by witches 
as boats. 

When sick people go into a decline, they are 
said to be "overlooked" or bewitched, and there 
is little hope for their recovery. 

A white witch is one who has the power to re- 
move the spell of a bad witch. There are vari- 
ous incantations by which this is done. 

To prevent a witch from injuring a person, 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 75 

he must make an image of wax of the witch and 
stick it full of pins. This will cause the witch 
to become impotent and die. 

Wearing the left stocking inside out, horse- 
shoes, spittle, hagstones, etc., are good anti- 
dotes to a witches power. The sign of the cross 
also prevents their evil. 



CHAPTER VIII 

SIGNS CONNECTED WITH THE BODY. 

SNEEZING 

The custom of muttering a prayer or a pious 
wish after sneezing is as old as history. It wa? 
accounted very ancient in the time of Aristotle, 
who in his "Problems" endeavored to account for 
it, but knew nothing of its origin. According to 
him the ancients believed that the head was the 
seat of the soul and that sneezing in some way 
affected the spirit. Hence the necessity of utter- 
ing an invocation to preserve the soul from 
harm. 

The Greeks and Romans had a number of 
formulas for sneezing, such as, "Long may you 
live!" "May you enjoy good health!" "Jupiter 
preserve you!" 

Sneezing was often considered a lucky omen 
among the ancients. Their history is full of 
events of importance which were ushered in by 
a sneeze. The "Odyssey" tells of the "lucky 
sneeze of Telemachus." History tells of the 
soldiers' sneezing in adoration of a god that rose 

76 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 77 

before them in the ranks, an event which Xeno- 
phon regarded as a favorable omen. 

Aristotle considered a sneeze as divine, but a 
cough as vulgar. Petronius mentions the custom 
of saying, "Salve" (hail), when a soldier sneezed. 
Tiberius Caesar never neglected to observe this 
formula. 

When a Hindoo sneezes, bystanders say, "Live !" 
and he replies, "With you!" The Zulus believe 
that an angry spirit enters the body and that a 
sneeze is an effort of nature to expel it. 

Aristotle believed that sneezing from noon till 
midnight was a good omen, but from midnight 
till the next noon was a sign of bad luck. 

All nations have some formula for sneezing. 
The Germans say, "Zur Gesundheiil" The English 
say, "God bless you!" The French say, "A vos 
souhaits." 

If some one sneezes after you have made a 
statement, it places the seal of truth upon it and 
the statement may not be doubted. 

According to mythology Prometheus made an 
artificial man, and the first sign of life he gave 
was to sneeze. It was through the nostril that 
life entered into his body. 

In the time of Pope St. Gregory the Great, 



78 SIGNS, OMENS; AND SUPERSTITIONS 

there was an epidemic of sneezing, and many 
of the afflicted died. The pope thereupon de- 
clared that a certain prayer should be uttered 
every time a person sneezed, to avert the calam- 
ity. 

To sneeze three times in rapid succession is 
considered a good omen. 

Physiologically considered in the light of mod- 
ern science, sneezing is bad, as it spreads the 
germs of many diseases by spraying them into 
the air. One should always sneeze into a hand- 
kerchief. 

SPITTING 

In ancient times spitting was considered as 
having the virtue of averting witchcraft, and 
even in our time many superstitions cling to the 
habit. 

Spit was considered as a charm against all 
kinds of fascination. Theocritus says: 

"Thrice on my breast I spit to guard me safe 
from fascinating charms.' ' 

Superstitious nurses will spit on their children 
to keep them from harm. 

Alluding to this custom an ancient writer says: 

"His lips are wet with lustral spittle, thus 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 79 

They think to make the gods propitious." 

Bruisers and boxers before attacking their ad- 
versary, spit on their hands to insure success. 

Boys, when making a pledge or asserting a thing 
to be "honor bright," often spit on the ground to 
give emphasis to their good faith. 

Coal miners in England when they form a 
union for any purpose, sit in a circle and spit on a 
stone, by way of cementing their friendship and 
loyalty. 

Devout people often spit at the mention of the 
name of his satanic majesty, in an effort to keep 
away evil influences. 

Mohammedans are said to spit at the mention 
of the name of Jesus. 

To spit on one's hands before undertaking a 
piece of manual work insures a successful result. 

Spitting three times into their bosoms, was con- 
sidered by the Greeks as preventive of danger 
when in the presence of a madman or an epileptic. 

When a man hit another and felt remorse for 
the blow, he spit into the hollow of his hand, and 
thus freed the other from pain. This was a su- 
perstition of the Middle Ages. 

Spitting to avert evil influences is still resorted 



80 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

to among country folks, and in some countries is 
almost considered a religious act. 

In Ireland it is considered unlucky to praise 
a horse or other animal unless you spit on him 
and say, "God save him," or other similar prayer. 
If after three days, any bad luck befalls the ani- 
mal, it is necessary to find the person who praised 
him so that he may whisper the Lord's Prayer into 
the animal's right ear. 

Hucksters, peddlers, and other tradespeople, 
have a habit of spitting for good luck when mak- 
ing a sale. The first money they receive in the 
morning is spat upon to insure good luck for the 
day. 

It is customary in some parts when a rainbow 
appears to make a cross on the ground and spit 
on each of the four corners. 

MOLES, TEETH, WARTS, ETC. 

Moles may denote good or bad fortune ac- 
cording to where they are found. 

On the throat they are lucky; on the lower jaw, 
especially of a woman, they denote the opposite. 
On the back of the neck they are said to pre- 
dict a hanging. 

Red or black moles are considered unlucky, 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 81 

but brown ones are lucky. If raised like a wart 
they foretell luck. 

A mole on the forehead brings good fortune, 
so also one on the chin. As a rule moles de- 
note coming wealth. 

The hairs growing out of moles are considered 
harbingers of fortune and in some countries are 
carefully guarded and cultivated. In Latin coun- 
tries one can see men go about with long hairs 
growing out of moles on their faces. They are 
careful never to shave them. 

When a child loses a tooth it will hasten the 
growth of the new tooth, if the old is thrown into 
the fire. 

When a tooth is pulled it should be thrown in- 
to the fire. In Switzerland it is carefully wrapped 
in paper with a pinch of salt and burned. 

To cure a toothache, the name of St. Apollonia 
is invoked in Latin countries. She suffered mar- 
tyrdom by having her teeth pulled out, and has 
since been the patron saint of those who suffer 
from similar pangs. 

To dream of losing a tooth, foretells the death 
of a friend. 

If a baby's tooth first appars in the upper jaw, 
it is a sign that the child will die in infancy. 



82 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

If the teeth are very irregular it is a sign of 
bad luck. 

If there is a gap between the two upper middle 
teeth large enough to pass a coin through, it 
foretells wealth. 

The Greeks believed that it was unlucky to 
count one's warts as they would increase in 
number. 

To charm away a wart, buy it from the pos- 
sessor for a pin, and it will disappear within a 
week. 

Another way to charm away a wart is to rub 
it with half an apple. Tie the two halves to- 
gether with a thread, and bury it at the foot of 
a tree. Within a week the wart will have dis- 
appeared. 

Spots in the nails foretell riches. If many, the 
person showing them will gain a fortune. White 
specks often foretell happenings without wealth. 
On the thumb-nail, they indicate honors. 

YAWNING 

Among many peoples, yawning is considered a 
sign of possession or obsession by an evil spirit. 
When the Hindoo yawns, he snaps his thumb 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 83 

and finger and repeats the name of one of his 
deities. To neglect this brings misfortune. 

When a Moslem yawns he puts the back of his 
left hand to his mouth and says, "I seek refuge 
with Allah from Satan." 

There is an old belief that when one yawns 
the devil may leap into the open mouth; hence 
the necessity of holding a hand over the mouth. 

To yawn in the midst of saying one's prayers, 
is a bad omen. It is better to say the prayer 
from the beginning again. 

TINGLING AND ITCHING 

It is a common superstition that when one's 
ears tingle some one is talking about him. 

Shakespeare says in "Much Ado About Noth- 
ing," "What fire is in mine ears?" Beatrice de- 
duces from this that a friend is talking about her. 

Even the old Roman historian, Pliny, says: 
"It is an opinion generally received that when 
our ears do glow and tingle, there be some that 
in our absence do talk of us." 

The tingling of the right ear is taken to 
mean that good is spoken, while, that of the left 
ear is a token of the fact that evil is spoken. 



84 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

Herrick writes: 

"My ear tingles, some there be 
That are snarling now at me." 

The itching of the palm is considered an indi- 
cation that the person will get some unexpected 
money. If continued for any length of time, a 
fortune will come to him. 

The itching of the thumb or nose denotes a 
visitor, sometimes an unwelcome intruder. 

One of the witches in "Macbeth" says: 
"By the pricking of my thumbs, 
Something wicked this way comes." 

STUMBLING AND FALLING 

Falling has always been associated with the 
idea of evil, and its effects can only be averted 
by a quick-witted remark or a muttered invoca- 
tion. 

When Caesar landed at Adrumetum in Africa, 
it is related that he tripped and fell upon his face. 
This was considered as an ill omen by his sol- 
diers, but with great presence of mind he ex- 
claimed: "Thus do I take possession of thee, 
O Africa." Thus he changed a sign of bad to 
one of good fortune. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 85 

When William the Conqueror landed in Eng- 
land, he fell prone upon the ground. A great cry 
of despair went up from his army, but he raised 
himself smilingly ancl said: "I have seized the 
country with both my hands." 

To fall while going upstairs is a sure sign that 
the victim will not marry within a year. 

The falling of a picture from the wall is uni- 
versally regarded as a bad omen and frequently 
foretells the death of the original of the picture 
in the case of a portrait. 

It is related that a well-known English arch- 
bishop on entering his study one day, found his 
portrait lying on the floor, the cord that held it 
on the hook, having snapped. The sight so un- 
nerved the prelate that he became ill, and died 
shortly after. 

The Duke of Buckingham had a similar mis- 
adventure. On entering the council chamber, he 
found his portrait lying at full length on the 
floor. He died soon after. 

A fall from a horse, besides being very incon- 
venient and often painful, is supposed to bring evil 
consequences. If two persons part on horseback, 
and one of them falls off his mount, the two will 
never meet again. 



86 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

The fall of a window blind is accounted un- 
lucky, but the evil can be averted by at once re- 
placing it in its sockets. 

The fall of a knife or fork to the floor is usu- 
ally considered a good omen and foretells a vistf 
from a friend; a female in the case of a knife, or 
a. male in the case of a fork. 

To fall downstairs is a very bad sign and 
signifies loss of health or money. 

To stumble in the morning on coming down- 
stairs is a sign of ill luck during the day. 

A horse stumbling on the highway brings bad 
luck to his owner. 

Stumbling at a grave is considered a bad omen. 
Shakespeare says: 

"How oft to-night 

"Have my old feet stumbled at graves !" 

"For many men that stumble at the threshold 

"Are well foretold that danger lurks within." 

If you stumble over a stick or stone, turn back 
and kick it out of the way to avert trouble. 

CUTTING NAILS AND HAIR 

The paring of nails has given rise to some 
strange beliefs. So also has the cutting of hair. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS S7 

This is natural, as the clipping away of one's body- 
is in itself uncanny and apt to give rise to super- 
stitious conjectures. 

Sailors believe that to cut the nails or hair 
during a calm will provoke contrary winds. They, 
therefore, only cut them in a storm. 

The ancients declared that nails and hair should 
not be pared or cut when in the presence of the 
gods, but in the secrecy of one's home. 

Among the Arabians it is considered lucky to 
cut the nails and hair on Friday. 

In some countries it is considered unlucky to 
cut a child's nails till it is a year old. They have 
to be bitten off. 

In Scotland it is believed that if a child's nails 
are cut before it is a year old, it will grow up to 
be a thief. In other lands, it is thought the child 
will stammer. 

The Jews burn their nail parings with a piece 
of wood, as a species of offering to insure good 
luck. 

PERSONAL APPEARANCE 

When a woman's eyebrows meet across her 
nose, it is a good sign. She will be happy whether 
she marries or not. 



88 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

A woman whose hair grows down over her 
forehead in the shape of a peak, will never marry. 

CLOTHES SUPERSTITIONS 

On rising in the morning, great care must be 
given to the way one dresses, as accidents often 
foretell trouble during the day. 

Augustus Caesar put on his left sandal awry and 
nearly lost his life in a mutiny. A well-known 
writer says: 

"Augustus by an oversight 
Put on his left shoe before his right; 
Had like to have been slain that day 
By soldiers mutinying for pay." 

To put your shirt inside out is a good omen, 
providing you discover it in time and change it. 
If left on all day, beware of accidents. 

To button your vest so that the buttons and holes 
come out uneven is a good sign. 

It is well to put on the stocking of your right 
foot first and the shoe of your left foot. 

To tear off a button while dressing is a bad sign. 
It should be remedied at once before going out 
of the house. 

A hole in one's stocking is a good sign on 
the first day, but brings bad luck on the second. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 89 

To put the right shoe on the left foot or the 
reverse, is a sign of coming trouble. 

To rip a garment the first time you put it 
on, is a bad sign. 

To rend one's garments was in former days 
considered a symbol of mourning. 

If you meet a person wearing new clothes, 
pinch him for good luck. 

A proverbial saying when meeting a person 
with new clothes, is, "May you have health to 
wear it, strength to tear it, and money to buy 
another." 

Coin given to a person wearing a new suit 
will bring him good fortune as long as the clothes 
last. 

To put on a suit for the first time on Monday 
signifies that it will soon tear. You will have bad 
luck in wearing it. 

Tuesday — Beware lest the suit catch fire. Keep 
out of speculation. 

Wednesday — Things will go well with you. 
Your speculations will succeed. 

Thursday — You will always appear neat and 
well dressed. You will make a good impression 
and get what you are after. 

Friday — Not a good day to put on new attire. 



9 o SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

You will be successful only as long as the clothes 
remain fresh. 

Saturday — Beware of catching cold. There is 
an element of bad luck in a new suit on this day. 

Sunday — Happiness and good luck will follow 
him who puts on a new suit on the Sabbath. 

ON ARISING 

To get out of bed with the left foot is con- 
sidered a forecast of bad luck. When a person 
is cross or irritable, we often say, "He got out 
of bed with the wrong foot." 

To put your foot on a soft carpet or rug, on 
arising, foretells a successful day. 

To stumble on getting up, is bad. You should 
go back to bed and try it again. 

To say "Good luck" on arising, will insure suc- 
cess during the day. 

It is considered unlucky to sing before break- 
fast. You may cry before supper. 

It is unlucky to relate a bad dream before break- 
fast. It may come true. 

To find a coin early in the morning is a sign 
for you to beware lest you lose money before the 
day is spent. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 91 

SQUINTING, CRIPPLED AND HUNCH- 
BACK PERSONS 

To meet a squinting or cross-eyed person on 
going out in the morning is a sign of trouble. It 
is well to go back a block or two and start over. 

To walk with a cross-eyed person is sure to 
bring bad luck. 

To touch a hunchback's hump brings good 
luck. Gamblers, especially, often resort to this 
method to change their luck from bad to good. 

To have a hunchback about the premises brings 
good fortune. In former years kings used to have 
a court fool who was usually a hunchback, not 
only to make merriment for them, but to insure 
good fortune. 

To shake hands with a left-handed person is 
often regarded as unlucky. 

To touch a blind man's garment or brush past 
him is a sign of ill fortune. To help a blind man 
on his way, is an omen of good luck. 

To be baptized by a left-handed priest is con- 
sidered unlucky. 

To meet a priest the first thing in the morn- 
ing is a bad omen. This may be averted by 
throwing a pin at him. 



92 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

To have a cripple tread on your toes is a very 
bad omen. 

To meet a beggar as you leave your house in 
the morning, is a bad sign, and you should at once 
return and start over. 

To give a coin to a cripple insures good luck. 

DEATH AND CORPSES 

Feathers or a bird in the room of a sick person 
are supposed to delay death. This idea is often re- 
sorted to where it is advisable to delay the last 
breadth till some absent friend arrives. 

At the moment of death the doors and windows 
are often opened to allow the spirit free egress. 

Looking-glasses and pictures are covered as 
long as the corpse is in the house, to prevent the 
spirit from seeing its reflection. 

In Scotland a piece of iron is thrust into all 
eatables right after a death, to prevent the attrac- 
tion of other spirits. 

A plate of salt is put upon the breast of a new 
corpse in Wales to purge out all the sins of the 
defunct. 

Candles are lit at the head of the corpse, to 
ward off evil spirits. 

A watch is usually kept by the side of the body 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 93 

until the funeral, to ward off evil spirits and also 
rats. 

Tolling of the bell is usual in most countries. 
After some minutes of tolling there is a pause, 
and three times three tolls for a male and twice 
three for a female, is the rule. 

Where bees are kept it is customary to tell the 
bees that their owner is dead and that they must 
remain and work for the new owner. 

In Ireland a wake is the rule. Friends of the 
departed meet and discuss the good points and 
foibles of the dead. Refreshments are served. 

THE EVIL EYE 

The fear of the evil eye is very prevalent among 
the Latin races, and even in this country there is 
a belief that certain persons possess the "mal oc- 
chio" and can bewitch by merely looking with hat- 
red or envy upon another. Many charms and amu- 
lets have and are still being worn to counteract 
any bad effects. 

A cross of jet is frequently used as an amulet 
against the evil eye. It is believed that it will split 
if looked upon by a person having evil intentions. 

The following are a few of the many substances 
used for averting the evil from this source. Skin 



94 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

from a hyenna's forehead, madwort hung up in 
the home; Catochites, a species of stone, worn in a 
ring or about the neck; spitting on the right shoe 
before putting it on; a necklace of jacinth, etc. 

Sweeping a child's face with the bough of a pine 
tree, is considered a very successful preventive; 
so is hanging up the key of the house over a 
child's cradle. 

Other means of preventing the blasting effects of 
the evil eye are: Laying turf, dug from a grave, 
upon the cradle of a child; laying crumbs on the 
cradle; giving the child a piece of coral that was 
dipped in the font in which the child was bap- 
tized. 

Hindoos decorate their children with a profu- 
sion of jewels to antagonize the evil eye. Mo- 
hammedans suspend articles from the ceiling over 
the cradle for the same purpose. 

In Roumania a child or grown person decorated 
with red ribbons is supposed to be impervious to 
this terrible influence, and hence most people wear 
something scarlet " about their bodies, and even 
the oxen in the field have something red tied about 
their horns. 



CHAPTER IX 
HOUSEHOLD BELIEFS 

If the keys of a careful housewife get rusty in 
spite of her care, it means that some one is saving 
money for her. 

A hot cinder jumping out of the grate signifies 
the coming of good fortune. 

If meat shrinks while being boiled in a pot, it 
is a bad sign, but if it swells, it means that pros- 
perity is in store. 

The first cake taken out of an oven should be 
broken, not cut; otherwise all the rest of the 
cakes baked that day will be soggy. 

Do not sweep the dust out of the front door. 
It indicates that your good luck will be swept out 
with it. 

If a leaf of soot hangs in the grate, it announces 
the coming of a guest. 

If a rooster stands upon the threshold of your 
house and crows, a stranger may be expected. 

If you neglect to close down the lid of your 
teapot, a guest will come and have tea with you. 

If your tea-kettle sings, it is a sign of content- 
ment in the home. 

95 



96 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

In sweeping, beware not to sweep the dirt over 
a girl's feet, as it will prevent her from marrying 
that year. 

If you wash your hands and face in a bowl of 
water that has been used by some one else, it fore- 
tells a quarrel with that other person. 

Trousers made on Friday are unlucky and will 
soon tear. 

To break up your bread into crumbs at the 
table is an omen of coming poverty. 

To drop a coarse comb foretells a visit by a 
man, — a fine-tooth-comb means a visit from a 
woman. 

To throw away a piece of bread is an indication 
of carelessness and brings bad luck. 

LOOKING-GLASS OMENS 
Mirrors have always been regarded as divine 
instruments and used as objects of divination, 
hence a certain amount of superstition attaches 
to them. It is wonderful, indeed, that by nature's 
law of reflection, one can see the image of that 
which is outside of the glass, and it has been 
considered Unlucky to destroy in any way that 
power to reflect. 

To break a looking-glass is considered unlucky, 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 97 

and the person breaking one will have bad fortune 
for seven years. 

If the looking-glass is willfully broken and 
thrown away, it has no effect upon one's fortune. 

In Catholic countries a person accidentally 
breaking a mirror, crosses himself and says: 
"May the Saints avert ill fortune." The curse is 
thereby lifted. 

In the days of ancient Greece, divination was 
performed by means of water and a looking-glass. 
This was called catoptromancy. The mirror was 
dipped into the water and a sick person was asked 
to look into the glass. If his image appeared dis- 
torted, he was likely to die ; if clear, he would live. 

Looking-glasses are often used by fortune tel- 
lers in a way similar to crystal globes. They can 
tell from the nature of the images they perceive 
what will be the future of the inquirer. 

To break the glass over a friend's portrait is 
a bad sign. It often betokens the death of the 
person who is the original of the picture. 

It is considered ill luck to see your face in a 
mirror by candlelight. 

SPILLING OF SALT 

Salt has usually been considered in the light 



98 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

of a sacrificial element. Greeks and Romans 
mixed it with their cakes that were offered up 
on the altars of their deities. It was a necessary 
part of the sacrifice. Hence any accident to 
the salt on a table was considered unlucky. 

Among pagans salt was regarded as having re- 
demptive ' power and was used when doing any 
important business as a preventive of ill luck. It 
was thrown on the ground with an invocation that 
was supposed to ward off unfriendly spirits. 

Among the Jews, it is still a mark of hospital- 
ity to break bread with a stranger, and the bread 
is first dipped into salt. "Sharing one's salt with 
a stranger," has become synonymous with hos- 
pitality. 

Salt has been regarded as the symbol of friend- 
ship, therefore the overturning of a salt-cellar 
is looked upon as the breaking of friendship. 

. To spill salt at table is considered unlucky. 
To change the spell, however, it is only necessary 
to take a pinch of the salt and throw it over the 
left shoulder. 

In Da Vinci's picture of the Last Supper, Judas 
Iscariot is represented as overturning the salt. It 
is evident from this that the spilling of salt was 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 99 

considered a bad omen in the epoch when this pic- 
ture was painted. 

In some Eastern countries, the spilling of flour 
is viewed with the same feeling of awe as in the 
case of salt. 

To put too much salt into the food when cook- 
ing, is supposed to be proof that the cook is in 
love. » 

KNIFE SUPERSTITIONS 
* 

It is considered unlucky to accept a knife from 
a friend without giving something in return. You 
therefore buy the knife and avert the "cutting of 
friendship." 

A penny is usually offered in exchange for a 
knife, but among some believers, a pin is all that 
is necessary: 

To , # drop a knife on the floor, means the com- 
ing of a visitor. 

Knife and fork should never be crossed at the 
table, as this would presage bad luck: They 
should be laid side by side. 

To cross knives is to invite a cross or mis- 
fortune. The origin of this belief probably 
lay in the disinclination to make the sign of the 
cross sacreligiously. 



ioo SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

To leave a penknife open after you are through 
with it is a sign of danger and is unlucky. 

To drop a knife accidentally so that the point 
penetrates into the ground and it stands upright 
is a sign of coming success. 

To place an open knife near a sleeping child 
is considered a good omen. 

CANDLE SUPERSTITIONS 

Candles have always had a peculiarly religious 
character, and have from time immemorial been 
used in the service of churches and for sacred 
rites. Many queer superstitions attach to them. 

In Catholic countries it is customary to bring 
candles to church in honor of one's favorite saint 
or of the Madonna. The size of the candle and its 
decoration gave evidence of the donor's religious 
enthusiasm. 

Many of the saints had their own peculiar pref- 
erences as to the color of the candles. 

A birthday cake should have as many candles 
on it as there are years in the person's age. This 
will ensure another year of happiness. 

When the wax of a candle forms a loop tike a 
handle, it is called a "coffin handle," and portends 
bad luck. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 101 

The dripping of tallow or wax down the side of 
a candle, is called a "shroud" and foretells death 
to the person towards whom it is directed. 

A spark in the wick is called a "letter" and 
foretells the arrival of good news. 

A knot in the wick, burning with a red glow, 
indicates the visit of a stranger. 

A wick charred but remaining over the flame 
is a sign of good luck. 

To kill a moth hovering about a candle is a 
harbinger of good luck. 

CONCERNING LADDERS 

To walk under a ladder when it is leaning 
against a wall, is a sign of bad luck. 

To pass under a ladder that is hung horizon- 
tally does not influence your luck for good or 
evil. 

To climb a ladder with an odd number of 
rungs is a good sign and leads to success. 

To be on a ladder with a pretty girl is a good 
sign and foretells matrimony. 

To fall from a ladder is an omen of ill luck 
and foretells a loss of money. 



CHAPTER X 

DIVINATION 

THE MYSTERY OF NUMBERS 

That there is virtue in numbers and that every 
person is under the influence of certain numbers 
was taught as far back as the days of Pythagoras, 
and a vast collection of books have been written 
concerning this phase of superstition. 

Any clairvoyant to whom you may go to have 
fortune will ask you on what day of the month 
your fortune told will ask you on what day of the 
month you were born and in what year. From this 
she will tell you whether to expect good or evil 
fortune in the coming year. The basis for these 
calculations has been handed down from very 
ancient times. 

According to astrologers, every letter in one's 
name corresponds to a number, so that if you 
understand how to calculate the numerical value 
of your name you can foretell your future. 

The planets have numbers, and the 'influence they 
exert on you depends in how far their numbers 

1 02 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 103 

correspond with those in your name and dates of 
important events in your life. 

In horse racing, the names of the horses, taken 
according to their numerical value, often predict 
the result of the race. 

Every nation had its lucky and unlucky num- 
bers that occur in their mythology and history. 
The Greeks believed in the sacredness of the num- 
ber nine. They had nine muses, nine principal 
deities, nine oracles, etc. 

The Romans believed in the mystic three, the 
Egyptians in twelve, etc. 

The Jews revered the number seven, and its re- 
currence throughout the Bible is remarkable : Seven 
days of creation, seven lean years, seven fat years, 
seven stars, seven times bathing in the Jordan, 
seven years followed by a year of jubilee, etc. 
This number, according to Kabala was obtained 
by adding the letters of Man and God together. 

Thirteen, as we know, has been regarded by 
Christians as a very unlucky number on account 
of the events following the Last Supper. 

Divination by numbers is a favorite pastime 
and leads to some remarkable results. Many 
historical events have been prophesied by this 
method. Thus Napoleon III was born in 1808 and 



104 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

assumed the empire in 1852. Add 1-8-0-8 to 1852 
and you have 1869, which foretold the end of the 
empire about that time. 

The French Revolution occurred in 1789; add 
this date to the sum of its numbers and you have 
1814, which foretells the end of Napoleon's reign. 

The dates of other personalities can be worked 
out the same way and the result is often remark- 
ably correct. 

Kabala, or the occult science of the Jews of the 
Middle Ages, depended almost entirely upon the 
mystic powers of numbers. 

Many problems in modern mathematics depend 
on the mystic number nine and both nine and 
seven are used by fortune tellers in divining the 
future. 

LOTTERY NUMBERS AND USAGES 

Lotteries are practically a thing of the past in 
America, but there was a time when they flour- 
ished and when everybody from the wage earner 
to the millionaire wagered his pile on some lucky 
number. In the South the fever raged particu- 
larly strong, and the Louisiana Lottery and the 
Dismal Swamp Lottery counted their victims by 
the million. Policy, too, was very prevalent, and is 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 105 

still being conducted secretly in many parts of the 
country. Both lottery and policy were similar 
in that a certain price was paid for a ticket or 
a paper with numbers. On stated occasions num- 
bers were drawn out of a wheel and these were 
announced. The holder of the lucky number won 
an amount that differed according to the occasion. 

A man's age, or that of his wife or children, 
was frequently taken as the number. Some men 
added the figures in the date, month, etc. 

Dreams are considered particularly efficacious 
in playing policy. Most dream books give policy 
numbers coinciding with every possible dream, 
and these when played are supposed to make a win- 
ning. 

Among the numbers often taken are the date 
of the year, or the date of an important event. 
The numbers on a freight car have been known 
to bring fortunate results. 

In the case of a murder committed in a com- 
munity, certain numbers are supposed to have a 
peculiar significance and bring luck. 

In the South many negroes make a comfortable 
living by interpreting dreams, signs and omens 
and telling the proper numbers they signify for 
the playing of policy. 



106 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

In buying several lottery tickets, it is not lucky 
to have them all follow each other consecutively. 
An interval should separate them. 

Odd numbers are more apt to bring prizes than 
even numbers. Numbers ending in three, nine, 
twelve or seven are the most likely to strike luck. 

A number given you by a cripple is sure to be 
successful, but that given by a cross-eyed man or 
;woman is bound to lose. 

PREDICTIONS OF WEALTH 

To have lots of hair on your arms and ringers 
is a sign of coming wealth. 

When you throw a lump of sugar into your cof- 
fee or tea, the number of bubbles that arise are 
an indication of your future wealth. 

Many moles over your body indicate that you 
will be wealthy. 

To be born with a caul indicates that you will 
have luck and amass wealth. 

A birthmark in the middle of the back indi- 
cates a wealthy marriage. 

To be born during an eclipse, denotes hardship 
and poverty. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 107 

DIVINATION BY LETTERS 

The most celebrated arrangement or letters by 
which fortunes were -told or cures effected was 
the ABRACADABRA. It is attributed to Sere- 
nus, a celebrated physician of the second century. 
It is often written so that reading from the apex 
like an inverted pyramid up to the right side, the 
same word will be spelled as at the top. Thus: 

ABRACADABRA 

ABRACADABR 

ABRACADAB 

ABRACADA 

ABRAC AD 

ABR A CA 

ABRAC 

A B R A 

ABR 

A B 

A 

The belief in the wonderful powers of this 
word are well-nigh universal. By writing it on 
a parchment and hanging it about the neck of a 
sick person, it would staunch blood, heal dis- 
orders, cure toothache, etc. 

The Jews used a similar word, Abracalam, 



108 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

to cure disorders. In the Middle Ages the word, 
Anamazaptas, if whispered into a man's ear, was 
supposed to cure epilepsy. 

The word "Bedooh" inscribed on rings and 
charms or on helmets or sabres is supposed to 
bring good luck. It comes from an Arab word 
which means "he has walked well." 

The word "Osy" was used as a charm against 
serpents, and caused them to lie still as the dead. 

Pythagoras considered the letter Y a symbol of 
life, and used it in his divinations. 

Anagrams are often used to tell fortunes and 
to decide the career of a person. Thus Eleanor 
Davies, a well-known English woman and the 
wife of a poet, became a prophetess because she 
found that the letters of her name could be trans- 
posed to read, "Reveal O Daniel." 

In many countries, charms worn about the neck 
and engraved with mystic letters have the power 
to keep away evil and cure disease. 

DIVINATION BY BOOKS 

In ancient Greece, when people wanted counsel 
on important matters, they opened a scroll of 
Homer at random and noted the lines covered 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 109 

by the thumb. At the present time the Bible is 
the book usually employed for that purpose. 

If in distress, open the Bible and put your index 
finger on the page at random. The text will tell 
you what to do. If the words have no apparent 
bearing on the question, you should consider it an 
unfavorable reply. 

To decide Yes or No in any doubtful matter, 
open the Bible and note the first word on the left- 
hand page. If it has an even number of letters, 
the answer is No; if an odd number of letters, 
the answer is Yes. 

If things have gone wrong with you, open the 
Bible and say: 

"Mark and Matthew, Luke and John, 
Counsel, that I may get on." 

Then retire and inspiration will come in your 
sleep. 

A singular mode of divination for girls who 
desire to know their fate is described in an old 
book, as follows: 

"When you go to bed place under your pillow 
a prayer book opened at the part of the matri- 
monial service which begins, With this ring I 
thee wed,' etc." Place a key on it, a ring, a 
flower, a sprig of willow, a small heart-shaped 



no SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

cake, a crust of bread and a pack of playing cards. 
Wrap these up in a thin handkerchief and, on 
getting into bed, cross your thumbs and say: 

'Luna, every woman's friend, 

To me thy goodness condescend; 

Let me this night in visions see 

Emblems of my destiny/ " 
On New Year's Day a Bible is laid on the table, 
in some parts of England, and each member of the 
family opens it at random and from the contents 
of the two open pages reads his destiny for the 
ensuing year. 

The last chapter of the Book of Proverbs con- 
tains thirty-one verses, each of which is supposed 
to have reference to one day of a month. By con- 
sulting these for the day of the month on which 
you were born, you will have an indication as 
to which kind of occupation you will be most suc- 
cessful in. Thus, the twenty- fourth verse speaks 
of "fine linen," which indicates that the person born 
on that day will be successful as a manufacturer 
or seller of linen. 

PRECIOUS STONES 

Precious stones are supposed in all countries 
to have a special province in inducing fortunate 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS in 

or unlucky occurrences. The proper stone is 
chosen according to the month of one's birth, each 
month being governed by a different gem. 

The following is the list of birth stones accord- 
ing to the generally accepted belief : 

January, Garnet 

February, Amethyst 

March, Bloodstone 

April, Diamond 

May, Emerald 

June,, Agate 

July, Ruby 

August, Sardonyx 

September, Sapphire 

October, Opal 

November, Topaz 

December, Turquoise 

In the dictionary of "Phrase and Fable," we 
find a different arrangement based on astrological 
lore. It is as follows: — 



Sign of Zodiac 


Month 


Stone 


Aries, the ram, 


April 


Amethyst 


Taurus, the bull, 


May 


Agate 


Gemini, the twins, 


June 


Beryl 


Cancer, the crab, 


July 


Emerald 



Ii2 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

Sign of Zodiac 
Leo, the virgin, 
Libra, the balance, 
Scorpio, the scorpion, 
Sagittarius, archer, 
Capricorn, the goat, 
Aquarius, waterman, 
Pisces, the fishes, 

A ring presented to a person with his or her 
birthstone is sure to bring good fortune. 

One's birthstone in a charm or locket, worn 
about the neck, will bring luck in business or spec- 
ulation. 



Month 


Stone 


August 


Ruby 


September 


Jasper 


October 


Diamond 


November 


Topaz 


January 


Onyx 


February 


Sapphire 


March 


Chrysolite 



COLOR SUPERSTITIONS 

There has always been a disposition to connect 
one's personality with colors. People are supposed 
not only to have a fortunate number but a lucky 
hue as well. Planets have a certain hue, and a per- 
son's color chart agrees with that of his star. 

Modern scientific research has proved the im- 
portance of color in a curative sense. No matter 
whether your native color is red or blue, it is a 
fact that the color of your wall paper may have a 
beneficial or harmful effect on you if you are ill. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 113 

Color undoubtedly has an influence on mental con- 
ditions. 

Infusoria and the lower forms of life develop 
faster under one kind of color than under another, 
red and yellow being most favorable. Flies, ants 
and other insects die under the effect of blue or 
violet light. Why then should color not also have 
its influence on man? 

Insane people have been cured by placing them 
in a room that was flooded with light of a certain 
color that corresponded with their aura. Blue light 
was thought particularly efficacious for melan- 
choly people. 

The following beliefs are current in regard to 
colors : 

Red governs love, affection or lust. 
Scarlet rules emotion and anger. 
Crimson is the color of animal passion. 
Bright red gives courage and confidence. 
Orange is the color of simplicity or ignorance. 
Brown is the hue of worldly wisdom. 
Yellow, of jealousy and silliness. 

In the Bible, sin is supposed to be scarlet in 
color, hence that color is to be avoided by virtuous 
people. 



ii4 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

The devil, as the incarnation of sin, is always 
represented as dressed in scarlet. 

Yellow and gold, according to some philosophers, 
correspond to the intellectual, red to the sensual, 
and blue to the spiritual, moral and religious na- 
ture of man. 

White is the color of innocence, hence brides 
dress in white. 

Black is the color of mourning in European 
and American nations, but white is the mourning 
hue in oriental countries. 

Purple was considered the color of royalty in 
ancient days, probably on account of its former 
scarcity and expensiveness. It is also used for 
second mourning, as being a compromise between 
black and gay colors. 

There is a belief that every jealous person had 
green eyes. This idea no doubt was formed by the 
fact that some people's eyes become phosphorescent 
under great emotion. 



CHAPTER XI 
PLANT SUPERSTITIONS 

Quaking grass, also called maidenhair, if 
brought into the house brings bad luck. 

If mandrake is turned up in one's garden it 
should be burnt at once. Many strange beliefs 
centre about this root. Some believe it will cause 
blindness if looked at too long. 

To pick flowers before they are full blown, is 
said to cause a stye. 

March marigolds will cause drinking habits 
if looked at too long. 

If poppies are held to the eyes, it is believed 
they will blind one. 

Primroses should not be brought into a house 
where there are laying hens, or the chickens will 
not hatch out. 



"5 



CHAPTER XII 
BIRD AND INSECT SUPERSTITIONS 

Owls are considered unlucky birds. Their 
hoarse and repellent voice is a bad omen and 
means coming disaster. 

Chaucer says: "The owl brings tidings of 
death. ,, 

History tells that an owl once flew into the city 
of Rome and as a result the place was purified 
and sacrifices offered to propitiate the gods and 
avert trouble. 

Before the death of the Roman emperor, Anto- 
ninus, an owl was observed to sit over his chamber 
door. 

The Actian War was foretold by owls flying 
into the Temple of Concord in Rome. 

In the Middle Ages the screeching of owls was 
supposed to foretell plague or other calamities. 

Ravens were considered equally unlucky. To 
have a raven fly into one's bedroom foretold dis- 
aster. The celebrated poem by Poe, "The Raven," 
has this belief for its motive. 

Robins are considered lucky birds and it is 
116 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 117 

bad to kill one. The farmers believe that they 
will avert poor crops. 

The high esteem in which the robin is held 
probably originated from the story of the "Babes 
in the Wood" who were covered up with leaves 
by the robin redbreasts after they were left to 
starve by their cruel guardian. 

The cuckoo has long been considered as a 
bird of bad omen, if it enters one's home; but to 
hear a cuckoo cry in the woods is a good sign. 

Boys take their money out of their pockets and 
spit on it for luck when they hear a cuckoo cry. 
It is a bad sign not to have any money in your 
pocket when you hear the cuckoo's first cry in 
spring. 

A white bird or a crow flying against a win- 
dow by night, foretells a death in the house with- 
in a year. 

A robin is a bringer of good luck if it flies into 
the house. 

Magpies have different meanings according to 
the number that fly about. "One for sorrow, two 
for mirth, three for a wedding, four for a birth, 
five for silver, six for gold, seven a secret that 
dare not be told. ,, 



n8 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

To avert the evil influence of magpies, make a 
cross with the foot for every one in sight. 

It is unlucky to look into an owl's nest. 

It is a bad omen to kill a swallow or a wren or 
take their eggs. 

Martins and swallows are God's teachers and 
scholars and must not be annoyed. 

INSECT OMENS 

It is unlucky to kill a spider. If you wish to 
thrive, let the spider stay alive. 

A spider's web, encountered on the road should 
not be disturbed. 

A little red ant, if it crawls into the pocket, 
brings money. 

Crickets are considered harbingers of luck; 
but in some countries the contrary holds good. 

To kill a red ant, brings rain. 

Bees swarming on a house means that some one 
will die there. 

If you see a black snail, throw it over your head 
for luck. 

To kill a toad will make the bees swarm. 

BEES 

When putting bees into a new hive, one must 
knock three times on top of the old hive and tell 
them; otherwise they will sting you. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 119 

If any one dies in a house where bees are kept, 
they must be told, otherwise they will stop gather- 
ing honey and die too. 

In some country hives are turned around when 
a member of the family dies, otherwise the bees 
will also die. 

Bees are supposed to have a religious nature 
and to be subject to the emotions of their owners. 

In Yorkshire there is a custom of watching the 
hives on Christmas Eve. The people profess to be 
able to tell by the humming noise the bees make 
whether the holiday is to be a joyful one or not. 

Bees have often been used for divination and 
the size of the swarm and the general behavior of 
the bees prophesies good or bad crops. 

If a hive of bees dies out, it is a sign of a com- 
ing bad harvest and the farmer looks for another 
place to ply his profession. 

To be stung by a bee, if not followed by a 
swelling, is a sign of coming fortune. 

If three bees alight upon you at one time, it is 
a sign that your plans will meet with success. 



CHAPTER XIII 
ANIMAL PORTENTS 

The following are believed to foretell death: 
Rats leaving a house; a hare or white rabbit 
crossing your path; a cow lowing three times in 
your face; a shrewmouse running over your foot. 

It is unlucky to keep a kitten born in May. It 
should be drowned, as a May cat is supposed to 
suck a child's breath. 

Goslings hatched in May bring no luck to the 
owner. 

It is unlucky to bid a price for an animal that 
is not for sale. The animal is apt to die within a 
month. 

To covet another's beast will bring you bad luck. 

If a pig is killed while the moon is waning, 
it will be unprofitable and the bacon will shrink 
in the pot. 

A gray horse brings good luck. Spit on the 
little finger and rub it on the horse, and money 
will come to you. 

If you see a young spring lamb with the head 
towards you, it means good fortune. 

1 20 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 121 

It foretells bad luck if rats gnaw one's clothing. 

It is unlucky to kill a cricket. These insects 
were esteemed by the ancients as a symbol of hos- 
pitality. Their singing was often used to fore- 
tell good or bad events. 

A hare crossing the path of a traveller is a 
sign of bad fortune. A white hare, however, is 
regarded as a good sign. 

A pig appearing to a traveller is a good sign. 
If a sow be accompanied by a litter of pigs, it 
denotes a successful trip. 

The tail of a lizard is considered a lucky mas- 
cot in France, just as is the hind leg of a rabbit 
in this country. 

To meet a white horse is considered unlucky 
unless the person spits at it to avert trouble. 

To meet a white horse indicates that you will 
soon see a red-haired girl. 

Rooks are believed to foretell death by leaving 
the house near which they have built their nests. 

Killing a spider is considered unlucky. Small 
spiders, called "money-spinners," indicate good 
luck, and their webs are not to be destroyed. 

If black ants appear in a house it is a sign of 
good luck, but red ants bring misfortune. 



122 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

To meet a goat unexpectedly is bad luck; to 
meet a sheep is a good sign. 

HOWLING OF DOGS 

The howling of dogs has always been consid- 
ered a sign of coming disaster. Dogs are sup- 
posed to have a peculiar sense of coming trouble. 
In case of sickness, a dog is supposed to foretell 
the outcome. 

An old writer says: "As odd and unaccount- 
able as it may seem, dogs scent death even before 
it seizes a person. 

In the "Odyssey/' the dogs of Eumaeus are de- 
scribed as terrified at the sight of Minerva though 
she was invisible to human eyes. 

The howling of dogs is believed to presage 
death, especially in houses where some one is 
lying ill. 

When dogs tremble and wallow upon the earth 
it is a sign of wind and storm. 

Horses and cattle are often supposed to have 
this trait in common with dogs. Their keen sense 
of smell, or perhaps some sense which mortals do 
not possess, enables them to discover illness and 
danger. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 123 

BLACK CATS 

There are conflicting beliefs regarding the in- 
fluence of black cats. Some consider them a sure 
sign of good luck, others regard them with dread 
and awe. 

A black cat without a single white hair is 
lucky, particularly if it comes to you unsolicited. 

If you start out to undertake any new work or 
to hunt and a black cat crosses your path, you will 
be very lucky in your undertaking. 

If you try to coax a black cat to come and he 
runs away, you will be disappointed in your re- 
sults. 

To kill a black cat is very unlucky, and means 
misfortune for a year. 

Among Egyptians, cats were regarded with re- 
ligious awe. They were mummified and buried in 
the graves with human beings. 

Witches had a fondness for black cats, and used 
them in their divinations. In soothsaying, cats 
have always played an important role. 

The brain of a black cat was considered an 
important ingredient in the recipes and prescrip- 
tions of the witches in the Middle Ages. 

The meowing of a black cat at midnight is a 
bad omen, and foretells a death. 



CHAPTER XIV 

METEOROLOGICAL BELIEFS 

To walk under a rainbow is supposed to be un- 
lucky, as the light of a rainbow, while good in 
itself, harms the one it shines on. 

To be out in a sunshower is good luck, and 
whatever you venture in that hour will be success- 
ful. 

Thunder and lightning are both lucky and un- 
lucky according to the direction from which they 
come. 

An even number of thunder reports in quick 
succession have no effect, but an uneven number 
will bring luck. 

The ancients considered thunder as an indica- 
tion that Jove was angry. 

Thunder from a cloudless sky, is considered an 
indication of luck. 

To see a new moon for the first time after a 
change on the right-hand side or directly in front 
of you betokens good luck, but to see it behind 
you on your left, is a bad omen. 

To begin a journey or other important work in 
124 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 125 

the last quarter of the moon is bad, and the ven- 
ture will be a failure. 

To see the new moon through a window for the 
first time, indicates bad luck. 

The new moon seen over the right shoulder 
brings good fortune, over the left shoulder means 
failure, and straight ahead of you denotes good 
luck till the end of the season. 

The Friday on which the new moon first appears 
is a bad day and Sunday is equally unfavorable 
for a full moon. 

Red ants swarming through the earth, indicate 
coming of rain. 

If it rains on St. Swithin's Day, it will rain for 
forty days more. 

If the hedgehog emerges from his hole on 
Michaelmas and sees his shadow, prepare for 
thirty days more of winter. 

WEATHER SIGNS AND PORTENTS 

Small fleecy clouds of "curdled" appearance, in- 
dicate neither long wet nor long dry. Long 
streaky clouds, indicate fair weather. 

Thick bands of clouds across the west, indicate 
stormy weather. 

A "weather breeder" is a fine, warm day out 



126 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

of season and foretells bad weather in the near 
future. 

Streaks of light radiating out of clouds behind 
the sun foretell rain. The sun is said to be suck- 
ing up moisture. 

"The moon on her back holds water in her lap." 

A halo around the moon indicates rain. The 
bigger the wheel, the nearer the moisture. 

If the evening star is in front of the moon, 
look out for rain. 

When a guinea fowl or peacock calls, prepare 
for rain. 

The call of the green woodpecker is a sign of 
rain. 

Rooks gathering in large numbers and flying 
in a circle, foretell rain. 

If it rains on Friday, it will surely rain on the 
next Sunday. 

Shooting of corns or the aching of an old 
wound foretell rain. 

If during the harvest a rake is carried with its 
teeth up, it will be a wet harvest. 

When the cat scratches the leg of the table, 
sneezes, draws her paw over her forehead in 
washing her face or frisks about the house, it is 
a sure sign of rain. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 127 

The following are indications of rain: When 
crickets chirp louder than usually, when a rooster 
flies on the gate and crows, when a dog eats grass, 
and when snails are abundant. 

"Wind in the east is good neither for man or 
beast. 

Wind in the west suits everybody best/' 

When the robins sing high in the tree, the 
weather will be fine, but if they sing low down, it 
will rain soon. 

Sea gulls on land bring rain. 

"Red sky at night, shepherd's delight. 

Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning." 

Early mist indicates a fine day. 

If ice will bear a man before Christmas, it 
will not bear a mouse afterwards. 

If the sun shines through the apple trees on 
Christmas, it foretells a fine crop of apples. 

"If in February there be no rain, 

The hay won't prosper nor the grain." 

All other months of the year curse a fine Feb- 
ruary. 

If a cat lies in the sun in February, she will 
creep under the grate in March. 

"When the oak comes before the ash, summer 
will be dry and mash." 



128 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

"Rain on Good Friday and Easter Day, brings 
lots of grass but little hay." 

Cold May, short hay! Leaky June, plenty of 
corn! 

If it rains on St. S within' s Day, the apples are 
christened and the early kind may be picked. 

Warm October means a cold February. 

Snow that lingers will bring more snow. 

COMETS AND METEORS 

That the sudden appearance of a big star with 
a long tail should cause fear and apprehension is 
but natural. Primitive man, in fact until a few 
decades ago, saw in the fiery celestial visitor a 
sure omen of disaster. In religious countries in 
the Middle Ages, the appearance of a comet was 
associated with the second coming of Christ. 

In the year 1712, Whiston, a clergyman and 
astronomer, predicted the appearance of a comet 
and stated that the world would be destroyed by 
fire a few days thereafter. The comet appeared 
punctually according to his calculations, and the 
inhabitants of England began to prepare for the 
end of the world. People got into boats believ- 
ing that the water was the safest place. Divine 
service was held in all churches, and rich men 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 129 

parted with their wealth. The comet left with- 
out having accomplished any damage. 

Comets have often been regarded as the pre- 
cursor of war and famine and nearly every big 
war occurred soon after the appearance of a 
comet. 

Although we know now that comets are harm- 
less things, and rarely trouble the earth, super- 
stition still clings to them. 

Special prayers were instituted by various popes 
to nullify the evil a comet might do. In Catholic 
countries these are still used as a preventive of 
trouble. 

It is considered unlucky to engage in any new 
business during the continuation of a comet in the 
sky. 

Children born during a comet will have a difficult 
time of it, and are subject to sudden death. 

Shooting stars or meteors have also been the 
subject of many strange beliefs. When a shoot- 
ing star flashes across the sky, wish for money, 
and you will be sure to get it. 

A sick person, seeing a shooting star, will re- 
cover within a month. 

If you set out on a voyage at night and see a 
shooting star, your trip will be successful. 



i 3 o SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

Lovers seeing shooting stars and wishing for 
health, wealth or happiness, will have their wish 
gratified. 



CHAPTER XV 

VOCATIONAL SUPERSTITIONS 

SUPERSTITIONS OF KINGS 

King Harold of England considered Saturday 
his lucky day. 

According to Celtic chronicles, each king of 
Scotland had some favorite day, and. was forbid- 
den by the astrologers of his reign from doing 
certain things on designated days. 

The kings of Ireland were not allowed to have 
the sun fall on their beds at Tara Castle. 

The King of Munster was forbidden to have a 
feast at Killarney from Monday to the end of the 
week. 

The King of Connaught believed it ill luck to 
wear a speckled garment or to ride a speckled 
horse. 

The King of Ulster would not go to certain 
parts of his kingdom during March for fear of 
disaster. 

October 14th was supposed to be a lucky day 
for the kings of England. 

131 



132 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

The sixth of April was a lucky day for Alexan- 
der the Great. On that day he conquered Darius 
and won a great sea battle. 

The sixth of April was also lucky for Alexan- 
der's father, Phillip of Macedon. On that day he 
captured Potidaea, his general overthrew the II- 
lyrians, and his horse won at the Olympian 
games. 

The month of January has been unlucky for 
kings. Charles I was beheaded that month. 
Napoleon III and King Victor Emmanuel of Italy 
died in January. 

King Louis XVI of France found the 21st an 
important day. On April 21st, 1770, he was 
married, and every great event of his reign oc- 
curred on that day. On January 21st, 1793, he 
was beheaded. 

Cromwell considered the 3rd of September as 
his lucky day. He gained several great victories 
on that date. 

The Duke of Monmouth was told by a fortune- 
teller that if he survived St. S within' s Day he 
would be a great man. He died on that day. 

Napoleon Bonaparte considered Friday his un- 
lucky day and Monday his fortunate day. 

Henry IV of. France considered Friday lucky 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 133 

and preferred to undertake important things on 
that day. 

The late Emperor of Austria was superstitious 
and attributed all his family troubles to a curse 
that was launched against him by a countess who 
believed herself injured by him. 

The Hohenzollern family, of which the kaiser 
is the most talked-of member, have their pet 
superstitions, one of them being that the appari- 
tion of a woman in white betokens the death of 
one of the family. 

CARD PLAYERS' SUPERSTITIONS 

Luck plays such an important part with gam- 
blers and card players that it is not surprising 
they have a multitude of beliefs and superstitions. 
Where every move is connected with blind chance 
and skill is entirely secondary, every detail of the 
game is watched for some sign of import or some 
omen that will bring success. Here are some of 
the many beliefs that are current in English- 
speaking countries: 

To play cards on a table without a cover is 
considered unlucky. 

A green cover is the most fortunate to play on. 

To lend money to an adversary with which to 



134 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

i 

play is unlucky. To borrow money during a game 
is lucky. 

In Monte Carlo and other gambling places there 
is a belief that after a suicide of an unlucky player, 
all those playing against the bank will win. When 
the news of a suicide becomes known, therefore, 
the card rooms at once fill with eager players. 

If you wish a friend to win at cards, stick a 
pin in the lapel of his coat. 

To drop a card on the floor during a game is 
a bad sign, and means the loss of that game. 

Singing, while playing, is a sign that your side 
will lose. 

To have another person look over your shoul- 
der while playing, or put his foot on the rung of 
your chair, is a forerunner of bad luck. 

To play at the same table with a cross-eyed 
man is a sign that you will lose. 

To lose your temper or get into a passion over 
the game is a sign of a loss. 

The four of clubs is an unlucky card to get. It 
is called the devil's bedstead. 

It helps your luck to keep the chips carefully 
stacked up before you. 

Most players have their own private supersti- 
tions based on past experiences. A certain hand 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 135 

always foretells good luck, while the cards com- 
ing in a certain order may mean the reverse. 

Winning the first game often means that you 
will win the third. Holding your cards in a 
certain way brings success. 

Playing on certain days is unlucky for some, 
lucky for others. To play before 6 P. M. on 
Fridays is unlucky. 

Turning one's chair around three times is 
often resorted to to change one's luck. 

Playing with a fresh deck of cards is another 
way of forcing the goddess of fortune to be 
propitious. 

Most players have a lucky card which they 
touch with the index finger before sitting down 
to play. This insures good fortune. 

ACTORS' SUPERSTITIONS 

Actors may be counted among the most super- 
stitious people in the world. Their success de- 
pends upon so many unforeseen contingencies, 
and so many elements enter into their enter- 
prises, that they look with awe and misgiving 
upon every trivial incident. In different coun- 
tries they have different rites and beliefs, but the 



136 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

following seem to be the most prevalent in Eng- 
lish-speaking lands: 

Whistling in a theatre is a sign of very bad luck, 
and there is no offense that is more quickly 
frowned upon by the manager. It was formerly 
difficult for a vaudeville artist who made a 
specialty of whistling in his act to get an engage- 
ment. 

It is considered bad luck to change the costume 
in which an actor first made his success in a 
piece. In cases of a long run the garment is often 
worn until it becomes threadbare. 

The witches' song in Macbeth is believed to 
have an uncanny power for evil, and many actors 
cannot be induced to play in that tragedy. 

To repeat the last lines of a play at rehearsals 
is considered an ill omen. 

The pictures of an ostrich or peacock are con- 
sidered unlucky. 

To turn the handle of the wrong door in seeking 
a manager or play-broker is considered very un- 
lucky. To ward against failure, the applicant 
must return home and start out afresh next day. 

Yellow is an unlucky color for an actor. The 
color of one's costume often creates a loss of 
memory while learning a part. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 137 

The looping of a drop curtain is a sure fore- 
runner of evil. 

Wigs bring luck, and many an actor wears one 
although his part does not call for it. 

If an actor's shoes squeak on making his en- 
trance it is a sign that he will have the applause 
of the audience. 

If an actor kicks off his shoes and they alight 
on their soles, it is a good omen; but if they fall 
on their sides, it is a bad sign. 

Cats are considered very lucky by actors, and to 
have a cat run across the stage during a rehearsal 
is considered very lucky. It brings bad luck to 
kick a cat. 

To have a person look over the actor's shoulder 
while he is making up and looking at himself in 
the glass is unlucky. 

To stumble over anything in making an en- 
trance is bad, and will cause him to fail in his 
lines. 

If his costume catches in the scenery as he enters 
he must go back and make a new entrance or 
else have bad luck during the act. 

The peep-hole through which the actor looks 
out at the audience is usually in the centre, as 
either side may bring bad luck, 



138 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

THEATRE SUPERSTITIONS 

Managers have their pet superstitions as well 
as actors. 

To accept a play that has not been refused by 
at least one manager is considered by some as a 
sign of failure. 

If the first purchaser of seats for a performance 
is an old man or old woman it means that the 
play will have a long run. A young person means 
the reverse. 

To receive a torn bank note for a ticket is a 
bad sign for the box office man, and means a loss 
of position. A big bill for which he must make 
change is a good omen. 

If an usher seats a person in seat thirteen or a 
multiple thereof, he will have bad luck. 

An usher considers it bad luck to have a lady 
tip him for a program, but a gentleman's tip 
insures good luck. 

The first tip of the season is briskly rubbed on 
the leg of the usher's trousers and then kept in 
his pocket as a lucky piece. 

To receive a smile from an actor over the 
footlights is a good omen. 

A woman fainting in a theatre is considered a 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 139 

bad sign and means that the play will come to a 
speedy end. 

A death in a playhouse during a performance 
is a certain hoodoo, and usually ends in an unex- 
pected termination of the run of the play. 

COMMERCIAL TRAVELLERS' 
SUPERSTITIONS 

Travelling men, whose lives are a constant 
struggle after orders, are apt to consider trifles as 
an index of coming fortune, or the reverse, and 
many are their peculiar beliefs. 

When, on starting out, a drummer finds he 
has forgotten his order book, he will take no 
orders till it is sent after him. 

A necktie worn when the first order is taken 
is often worn till the end of the trip, as it brings 
good luck. With some, the suit takes the place 
of the tie. 

A salesman often goes into a stranger's store 
and tries to sell a bill before tackling his own 
regular customer. He believes that if he is turned 
down by one, he will be sure to sell the right 
man. 

A flock of sheep seen on starting out is a good 
sign. A pig or drove of pigs is even better. 



140 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

If no order has been taken for several days, the 
conscientious traveller will rest up for a day, take 
a bath and change his clothes for a change of 
luck. 

Muttering some incantation or wish while a 
difficult customer is making up his mind is often 
resorted to. 

A lucky pocket-piece twirled in the left hand is 
supposed to insure an order where the customer 
is undecided. 

A horseshoe carried in the bottom of a sample 
trunk is supposed to insure success during the 
trip. 

DRESSMAKERS AND SEAMSTRESSES 

Seamstresses have a code of beliefs of their 
own, many of which are curious. 

To prick a finger and draw blood while sewing 
a bride's dress bodes ill for the bride's married 
life. To stain the dress with blood means an 
early death for the wearer. 

To try on a bride's dress by the seamstress and 
wear it for an hour before the bride wears it 
betokens an engagement for the seamstress. 

To lose a thimble while making a bride's dress 
means exceptionally good luck for the bride. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 141 

To be employed to make a mourning outfit for 
a young widow betokens an early marriage for the 
seamstress. 

To turn the material on the wrong siae and 
sew it thus by mistake so that the dress will 
have to be ripped and resewn means good luck 
for the wearer. 

To drop your scissors on the floor means a 
visitor who will bring welcome news. Should 
the scissors break, it means a keen disappoint- 
ment. 

To sew with the wrong colored silk or thread 
by mistake is a sign of bad luck for the wearer 
unless the work is ripped and sewn over. 

To make an all white dress is always produc- 
tive of luck. 

A spot of dirt or oil on a new dress where it 
will show means disappointment for the wearer. 

It was formerly considered unlucky for a bride 
to help sew her own wedding dress. 

SAILORS' SUPERSTITIONS 

The sea is one of the greatest marvels of 
creation, and perhaps the most mysterious. It is 
full of dangers, and from time immemorial has 
been the subject of many superstitions. It is 



142 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

natural that sailors should attach a meaning to 
everything that promises a safe voyage. 

The sea is supposed to be filled with monsters 
that cause no end of trouble if they are not pro- 
pitiated by some rite. A fleet on the sea drives 
away these monsters. 

A sailing vessel is supposed to sail faster when 
running from an enemy than otherwise. 

By speaking to his sailing vessel as he would 
to a horse, many an old salt believes he gets greater 
speed. 

A kingfisher hanged by a nail to the mast is 
used to prophesy the direction of the wind. 

When a great auk, an aquatic bird, appears, 
sailors believe they will have a speedy voyage. 
If the bird settles on deck it is a good omen. 

Seeing three magpies predicts a successful voyj- 
age. One magpie, however, is a sign of bad 
luck. 

A seal is considered a lucky omen, and it is 
wicked to kill one. 

An albatross brings good luck and creates 
favorable winds. To kill an albatross is an omen 
of very bad luck. This is portrayed in the 
"Rime of the Ancient Mariner." 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 143 

A dove alighting on a ship is a sign of favor- 
able winds. 

Dolphins and porpoises playing about a ship 
presage a storm. 

An eight-arm cuttlefish is regarded by sailors 
as a bad omen. 

Barnacles that cling to a ship are believed to 
change into birds after the vessel has been on a 
cruise for six months. 

French sailors dread the nocturnal visits of a 
sort of mischievous ~?uck or sprite who is sup- 
posed to play pranks while they sleep. 

An appeal to the Virgin is supposed by Latin 
sailors to calm a storm at sea. 

Sailing on Friday is considered bad luck. 
Steamers do not now fear this day as much as 
formerly. 

When a Chinese junk is ready to go to sea, 
priests are invited to go on board to chant a 
prayer and offer a sacrifice to Tien How, the 
god of the sea. Gongs and drums are beaten. 

A shark following a ship is looked upon as a 
sure sign of death of one of the passengers or 
crew. 

When a storm arises and a vessel is in danger 
it is supposed that a sinful person is on board 



144 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

and causes the trouble. This belief grew out of the 
story of Jonah. 

Most sailors make the sign of the cross before 
launching a boat in an angry sea. 

Christening new ships is a relic of an ancient 
rite when wine was offered to Neptune as a pro- 
pitiatory sacrifice to insure his favor. 

The custom of blessing a ship is an old one and 
is supposed to keep a ship from harm. 

Carrying dead bodies on shipboard is regarded 
with superstitious dread by sailors, and those 
that die during a voyage are usually buried at 
sea. 

FISHERMEN'S SUPERSTITIONS 

During oyster dredging, fishermen often keep 
up a monotonous chant to charm the oysters into 
their net. This has given rise to the following 
verse, reprinted from an old book on fisher- 
men's lore: 

"The herring loves the merry moonlight, 

The mackerel loves the wind; 

But the oyster loves the dredger's song, 

For he comes of gentle kind." 
Norwegian fishermen perform a sort of sacred 
rite before going on the hunt for herring. They 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 145 

drink a "white lug," a sort of toddy. They be- 
lieve it insures a big catch. 

In many countries fishermen are afraid to as- 
sist a drowning man for fear that the water 
sprite will be offended and drive the fish from 
the nets. 

Burmese fishermen offer fruit and rice to "Nat," 
the spirit of the water, otherwise he will scare 
away the fish. 

Many fishermen believe that spitting on the 
bait before casting the hook will make the catch 
certain. 

Portuguese fishermen during a storm attach 
an image of St. Anthony to the mast and pray to 
it. If that don't help, they curse and beat the 
image to make it behave and do their behests. 

It is considered lucky to throw the first fish 
caught back into the water to induce other fish to 
come to the hook. 

TURFMEN'S SUPERSTITIONS 

Men who follow the races and make their 
living on the turf are in the same category as 
card players and gamblers. Their winnings de- 
pend exclusively on chance, and it is easy to 
understand how they invest every occurrence with 



146 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

some mysterious meaning and believe that certain 
signs or omens will bring good or bad luck. Some 
of their superstitions are childish, but their belief 
in them often brings the desired results. 

On the way to the races, if a turfman sees a 
name like that of the horse that is run that day, 
he takes it for an omen that the horse will win. 

The initials of names on signboards or the 
headlines in the paper he is reading are all made 
to do service in spelling the name of the horse 
that is to be victorious. 

To meet a funeral on the way to the track is 
a bad omen, although an empty hearse denotes 
good luck. 

To dream of a horse that is entered for a race 
is lucky, but it will not win the first time it is 
run. It is sure to win the second time, how- 
ever, and it is safe to bet on it then. 

To meet a cross-eyed man on the way to the 
track is very bad, but to meet a cross-eyed woman 
is lucky. A cross-eyed negro foretells the best 
kind of luck. 

To meet a black cat brings bad luck, while 
a white cat is excellent. To be followed by a 
strange dog is a good sign. To see a piebald 
horse means success. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 147 

To give alms to a blind beggar brings good luck 
and to touch the hump of a hunchback man is a 
sure sign of success. 

When the saddle girth of a horse gets loose and 
the jockey is obliged to get off and tighten it, it 
is a sure bet that the horse will win. 

Money that is won should be carried loose in 
the pocket, and not in a purse or wallet. It will 
then pave the way for more. 

To find money on the track is a bad thing. 
It should be given away in charity. 

BASEBALL SUPERSTITIONS 

Baseball players have a curious code of beliefs, 
which differ with nearly every team. They have 
their mascots, that are supposed to bring them 
good luck, and stand in awe of the "jinx" that 
often defeats their best plans. 

When a team runs behind in its score a change 
of pitcher or catcher often retrieves their chances. 

It is unlucky to play with a bat that is split, 
even if the damage is slight. A new bat must 
be procured. 

If on the way to the game any name is encoun- 
tered that suggests the name of one of the teams, 
that team will be successful. 



148 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

If any part of a player's uniform is missing 
or torn, it means bad luck for the team. 

A cross-eyed umpire is tabooed as a hoodoo. 

To have a "southpaw," or left-handed pitcher, 
brings good luck to the team. 

It is a common belief that the team losing the 
first innings will win the game at the end. 

WAITERS' SUPERSTITIONS 

Waiters, depending as they must upon chance 
tips, are very prone to be superstitious, and have 
developed a series of rites and ceremonies that 
are supposed to bring them the coveted fee. 

Drawing out a chair for the customer to seat 
himself is sure to bring a good-sized fee. If the 
customer for any reason takes a different seat 
from that indicated it is a bad omen. 

A certain arrangement of knife and fork is 
sure to produce a good result. The fork must 
lie near the plate and the knife on the outside 
and parallel. Any other arrangement is bad. 

Opening up the napkin for the customer is a 
good sign. 

To bring a customer a second portion of but- 
ter before he asks for it is good. If a customer 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 149 

sends out a dish for any reason, it means bad 
luck for the rest of the day. 

To receive a big tip early in the day is a bad 
sign. All the rest of the tips are apt to be small. 

To break a dish is a very bad omen. It means 
not only loss of wages, but the loss of tips as 
well. 

If a waiter finds that a certain salutation re- 
sults in a tip, he must use the same salutation 
on all clients during the day. 

To wait on a hunchback customer is a sign of 
good luck and results in a good inflow of tips. 
To wait on a one-armed man is bad. 



CHAPTER XVI 

MISCELLANEOUS 

PORTENTS OF EVIL 

Furniture creaking at night without visible 
cause, is a sign of death or illness. 

Letters crossing in the mail betoken evil for- 
tune. 

When the church bell strikes while the parson 
is giving out his text, some one in the congrega- 
tion will die. 

Ringing sounds in the ear foretell trouble. 

Three people making up a bed is a bad sign, 
and foretells illness to one of them. 

The ticking of a "death tick/' a minute insect 
that lives in wood, is a sign of coming trouble. 

BREAKING FRIENDSHIP 

When poker and tongs hang both on the same 
side of the fireplace it betokens a breaking of 
friendship. 

Passing a friend on the stairs, foretells a 
rupture. 

150 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 151 

When two persons kindle a fire together, it fore- 
tells that they will soon quarrel. 

Two persons washing their hands in the same 
basin or using the same towel at the same time, 
had better beware, for their friendship will be 
of short duration. 

In all of the above cases, making a cross with 
the thumb will prevent the evil from being carried 
out. 

DRINKING TOASTS 

Drinking to the health of a friend is a very 
old custom and goes back to the beginning of civil- 
ization. The Roman gallant would drink as 
many glasses as there were letters in the name 
of his sweetheart. 

The origin of the word "toast" is uncertain. 
An old writer claims that in the reign of Charles 
the Second, a piece of toasted bread was dropped 
in the wine, and that a wit, seeing that the wine 
had all been quaffed, remarked: "If I can't drink 
the wine, I can at least have the toast." 

To give or drink a toast signifies to offer a sen- 
timent in honor of some dear person, and wish 
him or her good health. It is supposed to be 
efficacious. 



152 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

The ancients poured wine upon the ground in 
honor of the gods. The modern feaster prefers to 
pour it into himself in honor o s f his friends. 
Many a man drinks to the health of others and 
forgets about his own health. 

To break a glass while drinking a toast is a bad 
omen, and may result in the early death of the 
person toasted. 

To spill wine while drinking a toast is a good 
omen, and brings health and happiness to the 
one concerned. 

PIOUS EJACULATIONS 

The custom of qualifying an assertion or a wish 
with some pious remark in order to avert trouble, 
is well-nigh universal and was as prevalent among 
the ancients as with us. 

The Romans, whenever they told of ^their in- 
tended movements or of anything they expected to 
accomplish in the future, always prefixed their 
remarks with "Deo Volente," or some similar 
words. 

The modern American says, "God willing," when 
he tells of something he expects to do. This is 
supposed to remove any hoodoo that may inter- 
fere with his anticipated deed. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 153 

Similarly the German says, "So Gott will" The 
Frenchman says, "A Dieu ne deplaise" and so 
every language has its equivalent. 

In speaking about the possibility of anything 
evil happening to one's dear ones, it is customary 
to say, "God forbid." 

In discussing the merits or deeds of one's 
wife or other dear relative, we often say "God 
bless her or him," which is supposed to remove any 
occult influence for evil. 

Jews, when discussing the good points or praise- 
worthy traits of their dear ones, say, "Unbe- 
schrien" which literally means "without wishing 
to praise." This prevents the praise from react- 
ing and becoming a reproach. 

In speaking of their dead, the Germans often 
add the word "selig" to the name. This means 
"blessed" or of "blessed memory," and is equiva- 
lent to saying, "Peace to his ashes." 

The English expressions of "Dear me," "My 
goodness" and "Goodness gracious," are really 
modifications of "dio nrio" "My God," "Gracious 
God," etc., and had their origin in the desire to 
call on the Deity to bring comfort or help. So also 
"Hully Gee" is a corruption of "Holy Jesus." 

The Europeans think nothing of interjecting the 



154 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

name of the Deity into their ordinary conversa- 
tion. "Mein Gott" "Act Gott," "Mon Dieu" etc., 
take place of our "Dear me," etc. They are 
not used in the spirit of blasphemy, but as pious 
words to avert evil. 

Many people before starting out on any errand, 
or even before entering a room, say to themselves, 
"Good luck," or other phrase, in the nature of 
a silent prayer. 

Birthday wishes, festival wishes and congratula- 
tions are all related to this same class of prayers 
or pious wishes, and are supposed to influence the 
mysterious power that rules the universe, to send 
its best gifts and to keep away harm. 



CHAPTER XVII 

SUPERSTITIONS OF THE ORTHODOX 
JEWS 

The following is a list of some of the most 
common beliefs of the orthodox Hebrews. Many 
of them have their original in some Biblical quota- 
tion or in some interpretation of a Biblical text. 
This collection is taken from the pages of the 
"Jewish Encyclopedia." 

Animal : — To see an animal in an unexpected 
place indicates the finding of a treasure. 

Bachelor: — Bachelors are not looked on with 
favor. As it is not good to be alone, every man 
is supposed to marry. Sand is strewn before the 
hearse when a bachelor is buried, as a reproach. 

Barrenness: — To cure barrenness, water was 
prescribed in which moss taken from the Temple 
wall in Jerusalem was cooked. 

Bat: — To kill a bat with a gold coin was con- 
sidered lucky. 

Bathtub: — A child's bathtub was not to be used 
for any other purpose, or the child would meet 
with misfortune. 

155 



156 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

Bear: — To eat a bear's heart would convert the 
eater into a tyrant. 

Bed: — It is considered lucky for girls to sit 
on a bride's bed, and will cause other marriages. 

Blood: — As blood was supposed to carry the 
life of the animal and was used on the altar, it is 
not eaten by professing Jews. 

Blood as a cure: — For many illnesses, blood 
was smeared on the breast and forehead. The 
blood of a rooster was usually taken for this 
purpose. 

Bone: — When a fishbone has been swallowed, 
place another fishbone on the head, and the offend- 
ing bone will be either ejected or swallowed com^ 
pletely. 

Book: — It is dangerous to go away and leave 
a book open. 

Bread: — After saying the usual blessing over 
bread at a meal (grace), the bread should be cut 
in two before eating. 

Bride: — If on the return from the marriage 
canopy, the bride takes the groom's hand, she 
will be the ruling power in the family. If the 
groom takes the bride's hand, he will be boss. 

Broom: — A table should never be brushed off 
with a broom, as it may bring poverty. 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 157 

Brothers: — It is unlucky for three married 
brothers to live in the same town. 

Buckets: — It is unlucky to come across an 
empty bucket in going out of a house, or a full 
bucket in coming in. 

Cat: — When a cat licks her paws, be prepared 
for company. 

Convulsions: — When a child has convulsions, 
break an earthenware pot in front of its face, to 
drive away the demon. 

Cemetery: — In order to allay the fears of any 
member of a community of being the first to be 
buried in a new cemetery, a rooster is often slaugh- 
tered and buried. 

Curse : — An undeserved curse, usually rebounds 
on the one who curses, and brings him bad luck. 

Dead: — A dead person is supposed to know 
what is going on until the last spade-full of earth 
is placed on his grave. 

Dirt: — It is unlucky to throw dirt after a man 
who is leaving a house. 

Eggs:' — To steal an egg brings poverty. 

Epidemics: — In case of an epidemic, never 
open the door of your home to any one until he 
has knocked three times. 

Evil Eye: — To avert the curse of the evil eye, 



158 SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 

spit three times on your finger tips and make a 
quick movement with your hand through the air. 

Eye: — If the right eye itches, rejoice; if the 
left, you will grieve. 

Fingers : — When washing the fingers, hold them 
downwards so that the water will drip off. Evil 
spirits will depart with the water. 

Feet: — Itching of the feet denotes that you 
will make a voyage to a place you have never been 
to. 

Hair: — If child's hair is cut on certain days, 
an el flock will grow. 

Looking back: — In running from danger, 
never look back, or like Lot's wife, you will come 
to grief. 

Money: — In taking money out of a purse or 
box, always leave a coin, however small, as a luck 
token. 

Money: — Dreaming of money is a sign of bad 
luck. 

Mourning: — Don't weep too long for the de- 
parted or you may have to weep for some one else. 
Weep three days, mourn seven, and refrain from 
wearing jewelry for thirty days. 

Oven: — It is unlucky to leave an oven empty. 
When you are not baking in it, keep a piece of 



SIGNS, OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS 159 

wood within, or you may not have anything to 
bake. 

Rats: — If rats leave one house for another, it 
is a sign of bad luck for the first and good luck 
for the second. 

Shoes: — Never walk out with only one shoe 
or slipper on your foot. It may forecast a death. 

Shroud: — In making a shroud, avoid knots. 

Sisters : — Two sisters should not marry on th6 
same day, nor should two brothers marry two 
sisters. Both bring bad luck. 

Sweeping: — It is unlucky to sweep out a room 
at night or to throw sweepings into the street 
after sundown. 

Widowhood : — The fourth husband of a widow 
will die soon after his marriage. 

Spitting: — When a person spits at another, he 
takes over the other's sins. 

Travelling: — Monday is a bad day for travel- 
ling, but Tuesday is a lucky day. 



' 



o 



< \ i « -^ A 



v\ X 



c^ "V 






,0 c- * 

■t > sy % "" \> 















p<i> 




00 



II 



o 



















<A 






.^^ 



<" 






Deacidified using the Bookkeeper 
,A V <$y <y Neutralizing agent: Magnesium O: 

> Treatment Date: Dec. 2004 

*j A " 












Deacidified using the Bookkeeper procesj 
Neutralizing agent: Magnesium Oxide 
> Treatment Date: Dec. 2004 

V s ' 

PreservationTechnologid 

A WORLD LEADER IN PAPER PRESERVATIOj 

1 1 1 Thomson Park Drive 
Cranberry Township, PA 16066 






V 



= Mucn in rArcn 

1 1 1 Thomson Park Drive 
Cranberry Township, PA 
(724) 779-21 1 1 







ft*- 



'0 0^ 



<P 









&*+ 
















. " ***> 



^/- V* 



k 0o 
















r K 



%^ ; ; 






%. .^' 













i"\ ^ 




LIBRARY OF CONGRESS 




013 541 250 8 



Bin 



m 



1 






hi 



m 



!fl 



if 



! 



I 



Sffi^nrai